Tomorrow, October 26, reaction will likely firm its grip over one of the three branches of American government. Assuming that the votes reported from November 3 favor Mr Biden but are sufficiently close, Mr Trump will begin maneuvers to have democracy set aside. The people will respond.
Democracy is growing less and less convenient for the people in power.
When it first began to spread to the working masses, around 1651, it worked out great for the rich. The new kind of workers, prematurely named “free labor,” was far superior to the slaves, serfs, and peons of before. The new merchants and manufacturers could employ “free labor” to run their complicated machinery. Slaves, serfs, or peons had been okay as long as plows and wheelbarrows were their highest technology, but intercontinental travel and high-level manufacturing needed workers who could be highly trained and organized.
If we wanted to talk “isms,” we would say that capitalism created “free labor” and increased democracy. But “isms” are a distraction. We are just talking about groups of people bound together by their common economic interests. The big group was “free labor,” but the smaller group of bosses was running things.
The “free labor” group believed, as all exploited people must believe, that they were part of an ageless and unchangeable system, for better or for worse. Through the generations, they studied and they toiled, they believed, for their own benefit and for the benefit of their children. Actually, the main beneficiaries were in the other group.
Democracy was a blessing to the working people and not entirely inconvenient for the bosses, as long as they still controlled the major economic levers. Workers could be allowed to vote for some of their representatives in government, but they were allowed very little say-so about major economic decisions or government policy. Decisions about war, in particular, had to be reserved for the elite.
Here in America, partial democracy had barely begun before it began to be challenged. Slavery became intolerable, not only to the slaves but to a significant part of the population. Landless workers wanted democracy. Women wanted to vote. People “of color” wanted freedom. Younger people insisted on a fair share. Everybody wanted more education for their children and independent news agencies sprang up everywhere.
The elite rulers found themselves with the Frankenstein dilemma. They had created and nurtured both “free labor” and its concomitant democracy, but both were getting out of control.
The changes were gradual over time. Ordinary people became better educated, more information sources became available, communications improved, organization opportunities grew. Democracy was ascending, and the tight grip of the ever-smaller group of big bosses was threatened.
Even though change is gradual, it is highlighted in certain events and periods. The Vietnam War was one of them. From the bosses’ point of view, the decision was a simple one: they were going to destroy their enemies and perpetuate their control, just as they were accustomed to doing. But democracy and the people began to interfere. When the civil rights movement joined hands with the anti-war demonstrators, even the bosses could see that change was coming.
Since then, education has exploded, information sources have multiplied, communication has headed for the stratosphere, and organizing opportunities are going through the roof. The people see democracy as more than a comfort. It is a necessity and must be extended!
Many of the bosses no longer see democracy as tolerable. It has to be fought. It has to die.
What Will Happen
What will happen, sooner or later, is what must happen. The immovable object and the irresistible force must confront one another. Progress and reaction cannot reconcile. A small group of secret rulers will not willingly cede control. Ascendant democracy for all cannot tolerate a small group of secret rulers. Progress and the people will prevail.
Book Review: Reuther, Victor G. “The Brothers Reuther and the Story of the UAW / A Memoir.” Canadian Edition, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1976
Victor Reuther was an outstanding communicator. He wrote a good book detailing the roles of Roy, Walter, and himself in the American labor movement. Whether one thinks, as nearly all UAW members do, that Walter was very close to God himself; or if one thinks that Walter Reuther was largely responsible for turning the American labor movement toward a very sorry period for working people; one still has to admit that the Reuther brothers had exciting lives and etched deep marks into history.
Historians can use Victor’s memoir to bolster either the dark or the illustrious view of Walter Reuther.
I knew Victor because he helped my local union in a contract fight between March, 1984, and July, 1985. I emceed a fund-raising dinner and introduced Victor as the main speaker. I spent some time with Victor at the UAW’s Black Lake educational center and took advantage of an occasion to interview him about the past. In answering my most critical question, Victor told me that the communists had to be ousted in the UAW because they “had a separate agenda.”
Over the years, I have had occasion to talk to many knowledgeable history buffs and UAW members about the Reuthers. Even the ones who have a dark view of Walter Reuther’s historical role nevertheless agree that “Victor was the best of them.”
Here is a little bit of the narrative of the book: the Reuthers were raised as democratic socialists. In the early 1930s, Walter and Victor took a bicycle tour of Europe which included a stint in a Russian auto manufacturing plant. They returned to America just as the sit-down strikes began sweeping the nation. Walter won a seat on the executive board of the UAW.
Victor had a key role in the great Flint sit-down strike that established the UAW and won their landmark contract with General Motors. He drove the sound truck and was, thus, the chief orator during the entire fight. Walter distinguished himself with a proposal to use auto plants for airplane manufacture during the Second World War.
At the end of the war, Walter led an anti-communist faction to victory in the UAW. He remained President for more than two decades. Victor took on international affairs for the increasingly powerful union. Walter eventually took over the CIO and led it into the merger with the AFL. Walter was an important part of many important policy decisions in the labor movement. Roy rounded up votes for UAW political candidates. He died a natural death in the 1960s. Walter died in an airplane crash in 1971. Victor retired in 1972 in order to write this book.
To his great credit, Victor includes detailed accounts of the AFL-CIO’s deep involvement with the ugly deeds of the Central Intelligence Agency. They helped overthrow democratic governments and install dictators regularly, and Victor writes it down.
UAW members think that Walter Reuther created the UAW and led the strike at Flint. He created pensions, health care, and unemployment insurance. He raised the standard of living for auto workers and, consequently, for the entire nation.
Reuther’s detractors, like me, think that he turned the American labor movement away from its natural inclination to fight the bosses. As a social democrat who was neither a coward nor a traitor, he was probably the best of the entire layer of opportunists who took advantage of the government’s harsh anti-labor turn and unprecedented prosperity after the World War. As social democrats, the Reuther brothers helped destroy the most progressive elements in the American labor movement and, working in harmony with the government, throughout the industrialized world.
Reuther’s detractors think that employer-provided health care and pensions were a giant step backward from a national health care program and improved Social Security – both of which had been CIO policies. Reuther’s detractors think that the CIO’s commitment to civil rights was destroyed during the witch-hunt and, even though the Reuthers were the best of them, union leaders essentially gave up on progressive politics.
Reuther’s detractors think that, at best, none of them were historically better than their good friend Hubert Humphrey, the “happy warrior” of cold war fame.
I think that Victor meant his book as a tribute, but he was a straight talker and a gifted communicator.
I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. I podcast “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, you can check out my personal web site
Some of My Notes:
Pg 110 Estimation of USSR. “Historians will probably debate for centuries whether so vast a country could have made the transition from feudalism to an industrial state without great sacrifice of individual freedom. But in the thirties, we were constantly disheartened at the price that was paid, while at the same time we were astonished at the progress manifest not only in factory production but in the rise of the standard of living.”
Pg 144 VP Wyndham Mortimer went to Flint to bring the auto workers together as Local 156. His mimeographed leaflets were too advanced for Flint, Reuther says, so a delegation from the local asked that he be replaced by Bob Travis. Travis then asked Roy Reuther to help him organize Flint. This contradicts Mortimer’s book mightily.
Pg 145 Kraus Henry, started the Flint Auto Worker. He wrote his own history of the union
Pg148 Mortimer And Homer Martin asked Victor to come to Flint to join staff. He did it on Jan 1, 1937, the day after the Fisher Body sit-down began. Quite a bit about how inadequate and traitorous Martin was
Pg 151 Travis “The great contribution of Bob Travis cannot be underestimated. He inspired confidence and loyalty everywhere he went. Though not an effective public speaker – he left the orator to Roy and me –…” // Carol Travis said that Victor complimented Travis’ speaking style. In Victor’s account, the ruse that Travis used to win an important GM department was brilliant. He doesn’t mention what Carol told me, which was that Victor was not party to this strategic decision//
Pg ? Bill Mckie mentioned as a close adviser to Walter. McKie had been fired from Ford and used an assumed name. There is another book on Mckie
Pg 209: Homer Martin in cahoots with Harry Bennett, the hoodlum running Ford’s anti-union gangs
Pg 211 “It was not until March 1941, however, that the death blow was given to Bennett and his antiunion army. By direction of the Supreme Court and the NLRB … “ //He credits some lawyer with this great achievement, but doesn’t mention Nat Wells, the lawyer who got the goods on Ford in Dallas. I have Wells’ remembrances//
Pg212: Ford agreed to checkoff for his own reasons
Pg236: CP blamed Reuthers for not wanting merit pay. Browder attacked both brothers for opposing the war effort. Said that Vic was consistently anti-war, but that Walter flip flopped as his ambitions suited.
Pg 237 Color barrier: “I remember that 2,400 Packard workers went on strike when three black girls were hired, after consultation with the UAW, the War Production Board, and the War Manpower Commission. Our International officers stood firm, and the strike was ended with those three girls still on the job and many other blacks on the employment muster.” //There is another account of an anti-black strike at Studebaker. UAW broke the strike and stood up for civil rights//
Pg 246 6 hour day: “[Walter] saw an urgent need for a thirty-hour week with the take-home pay of a forty-hour week:…” //This slogan was in UAW conventions up until 1957 and then disappeared//
Pg 247 Socialist Plan: /post war/ “The government-owned war plants should be leased to private industry, but with guarantees from those industries that would protect both labor and the consumer.”
Pg292 Texas “The UAW turned to two highly qualified investigators…Heber Blankenhorn… “When Blankenhorn was with NLRB, he almost single-handedly broke the case in Texas involving the violence provoked by Harry Bennett and His Ford Service Department.” //not Nat Wells?//
Pg293: Reuther shootings. Vic lost an eye, Walter nearly lost an arm. Vic complains mightily that police did not investigate underworld connections of auto companies. All they wanted to do was investigate communists.
Pg 295 Vic overseas. //in 1950??// “…a year after I had been shot…I was then back in full swing and had ahead of me many missions overseas.” //Victor’s role was to build “independent” (read anti-communist) unions in Europe.
Pg 308 pensions
Pg 312 Social Security increase. Pensions asked for in 1950
Pg 315 Sub Pay Supplemental unemployment benefit plan: Walter wanted this because auto work was intermittent. They got it I think in 1955
Pg 321 Democracy
Pg 325 Meany “…imagine Walter’s horror when in February 1970, he read the Washington Post headline ‘Meany would end union votes for ratification of contracts.’” //Victor has a lot of disparaging things to say about Meany and the AFL-CIO that he ran for many years//
Pg 327 flower funds OK
Pg 328 Trotskyites tolerated at UAW Convention
Pg 331 ICFTU founded 1949. Walter was an early delegate. AFL and CIO both in it //It was set up deliberately to counter the World Federation of Trade Unions, which included unions from socialist nations//
Pg 341 Walter explained to Truman why German industry had to be rehabilitated instead of being deprived. One of his arguments, “A major goal of your foreign policy is to prevent the spread of Communist totalitarianism and to preserve and strengthen democracy throughout the world.”
‘pg 357 Health Care “The success of the British National Health Service was to have a deep effect on Walter. Some years later a national committee of distinguished health experts drafted, under Walter’s chairmanship, the basic elements of what has become the Kennedy-“Gorman-Griffiths Health Bill.”
Pg 358 Environment, internationalism, and disarmament
Pg 366 Merger “Though the merger actually failed to strengthen the labor movement…” Victor thinks the merger of CIO with AFL was “premature”
Pg367 Meany bragged about spending so much on foreign affairs while only 2-3% expenditures were for organizing in U.S.
Pg 392 Peace corps Walter had proposed Peace Corps at least 7 years before Kennedy did it. Walter said, “The more young Americans are sent to the places in the world where people are hungry… the fewer of our sons we will have to send with guns to fight Communism on the battlefields of the world.”
Pg 411 CIA “The seduction of the AFL-CIO by the Central Intelligence Agency” poem. Victor actually details the involvement of the labor federation with the CIA. There are dollar amounts, names of conduits, and quite a bit of how it all worked.
Pg 423: “Thus the AFL-CIO became, quite literally, a disbursement agent for the State Department.”
Pg 426: “It was not until he fully understood the corrupting role of the AIFLD in Brazil, and heard Meany hail the overthrow of the Goulart regime, that Walter understood what he had, in all conscience, to do.” //I think this might have been 1964// Victor asserts that UAW’s international work was never financed by govt but came from the interest on the strike fund. The AFL-CIO was using government funds for their “international work.”
Pg 429 Democratic Party: Roy said that they never intended to capture the Democratic Party
jPg 449 “The Reuthers, all of us, had had a long and close friendship with [Hubert] Humphrey over the years.”
Pg 452: [Walter] countenanced the vigorous antiwar views of Emil Mazey, Paul Schrade… and me.”
Pg 488: Appendix B “Agreement between the AFL-CIO and the State Department.” Details allocation of $1,300,000 from named unions to American Institute for Free Labor Development, African-American Labor Center, and the Asian American Free Labor Instruments for “strengthening free trade unions throughout the world.”
Pg 490: Appendix C: Budget for AIFLD
Pg491 Appendix D: Memo to Atty Gn RF Kennedy prepared by VG Reuther, WP Reuther and Joseph L Rauh Jr. Explains the danger of the radical right in America. This was the days of Goldwater and the John Birch Society.
Smith, Page, “Trial By Fire. A People’s History of the Civil War and Reconstruction.” McGraw-Hill, NY, 1982. 995 pgs
This is Volume 5 of Page’s series on history of America. There are a lot of facts in the book, but factual reporting is not his method. Mostly, he compiles diary entries from people on both sides of the period. He tries, that way, to reflect what people were thinking as the years passed.
It is particularly effective when we try to un-puzzle what happened during Reconstruction. Did it succeed or did it fail? Should they have even tried or would it be better to have left the Southerners to do what they wanted? Who were the good guys and who were the bad? What difference did it make at the time?
Nothing is clear-cut in political history. It’s all a matter of point of view and opinion. Reconstruction may have been a good idea at the end of the Civil War, but a lot of people were against it. As time wore on, fewer and fewer people in the North really cared. The Southerners were adamant, and they thought they could re-assert the same relationships they had before the war.
One reason that Southerners were so optimistic about re-asserting racist relationships is because President Johnson had 3 years to re-instate them after Lincoln’s death. If there’s a bad guy, I mean a really awful bad guy, it was Johnson.
If there’s a good guy, a really good guy, it was President Grant. When he assumed the presidency in 1868, he made a genuine effort to protect African American people and give them a chance to thrive. When his second term ran out, reconstruction was over. The Republicans just gave it up. The strongest of them were the abolitionists, who had pretty well died out by 1876.
Page’s account of Reconstruction is the bloodiest I have seen. Black people were murdered and raped all over the South all through the decades following the war. Some died fighting, but most of them were simply murdered. There were large massacres and small massacres, but the Southerners eventually prevailed and civil rights went from a hopeful era to very dark times that persist today.
I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. We podcast it, and “Workers Beat Extra,” on Soundcloud. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site
“Stateless” streaming on Netflix. The first three episodes are directed by Emma Freeman; the other three by Jocelyn Moorhouse.
Please don’t miss this great Australian series.
The series examines what happens to the lives of those associated with an immigrant detention center that is operated for profit. This one is in Australia, where they unfailingly make great dramas, but the ones in the Rio Grande Valley are also run for profit.
Two of the main characters are inmates: an Afghani trying to save his daughters from the Taliban and an Australian citizen who is trying to hide her identity. The other two administrate the place: an immigration specialist and an ordinary working dude trying out a new job as a prison guard. The place works its wonders on them. Even more, the world system that creates 70 million dislocated asylum seekers and then mistreats them miserably works its wonders on us, the audience.
Part of the story, Wikipedia says, is directly true. All of it sounds true, seems true, hurts truly.
A word about the quality of the presentation: the penetrating insight into every character could only have been revealed by women. Both directors and both writers were women. Their sensitivity is a marvel.
By way of explaining how good the acting is, let me ask you if you’ve ever seen a Cate Blanchett picture where her acting didn’t overshadow everybody else? Cate Blanchett is very good in “Stateless,” but her role is limited. She is listed as one of several Executive Directors. If you’re a fan of Australian TV, let me ask if you’ve ever seen Marta Dusseldorp in anything in which her skill didn’t dominate everybody else? In this series, Ms Dusseldorp and Ms Blanchett are just part of a wonderful ensemble of players. Everybody is excellent. The actors for the four main characters are beyond excellent.
Top acting kudos has to go to Yvonne Strahovski. Her role is the most demanding, and she pushes each of her emotional portrayals beyond limits. After the first few scenes, you may recognize her as the cold hearted Commander’s wife in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” or maybe you won’t recognize her, but you won’t forget her again after you see her in “Stateless!”
The Australian immigration/detention system takes a beating in “Stateless,” but several characters, including some administrators, give the impression that they are doing the best that they can in a rotten situation. At least they are trying. My movie buddy and I agreed, several times as we watched the series over a few nights, that the worst of the miseries “Stateless” encountered must be far worse here at home in the United States, where what they are trying to do with the immigration situation isn’t just rotten.
I’m still on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. We podcast the program and “Workers Beat Extra” on Soundcloud. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site
American union federations should not accept police associations as members.
Everyone knows that the American labor movement has diminished in size and influence since the mid 1950s. The pandemic, the economic crisis, and a hostile government are accelerating the erosion today. Two doors to labor’s revival are open to us:
More of the kind of workplace organizing that we have always done or tried to do.
Improving our connections with broader communities that can add to our negotiating and electoral clout
We have to pass through both of those doors, but one of them is endangered by our association with police unions. The broader community, the broader electorate, distrusts police unions and anybody associated with them. A leading civil rights activist in Dallas today commented on the possibility of allowing the Police Association to affiliate with the Dallas AFL-CIO. He said, “If they do, I will never have anything to do with them!” He meant what he said.
Oddly, a lot of the public argument seems to be about whether or not police unions are really unions. If a union is a group of people organized together to advance their aims and defend their members, then certainly the police associations are unions. No argument.
Using the same definition, though, a lot of other associations are also unions. They advance their aims and defend their members. The Chamber of Commerce, arguably labor’s worst enemy, meets the definition. The Business Roundtable is a union. So is the White Citizens’ Alliance. They are unions, but they are not on the side of working families — and neither are the police.
Even the editors of the Dallas Morning News, historic enemies of working families, argue that police unions are reactionaries. The combined constituency groups of the AFL-CIO issued a statement that contains this:
“We demand local schools, colleges, universities, and all public institutions cut ties with the police.”
It is entirely possible, given the desperate financial situation of many actual unions, that members might want to affiliate with the police associations just for the money. They would argue that unions would benefit from additional workplace organizing; door number 1 above.
But door number 2, our hope of harnessing labor’s power along with the broad progressive community and electorate, would be swinging closed.
American labor should not affiliate with police associations.
I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 Central Time. They podcast the program plus other statements on Soundcloud. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site
Are today’s protests really going to change America? Will racism come to an end?
One thing I have really liked about the last 11 days of international protest is that it seems to be evolving from unfocused outrage toward serious demands. One recent local demand I’m hearing is to fire the Dallas mayor, city administrator, and police chief. I’m pretty sure there’s no real change in that one because we’d just end up with 3 new faces, just as likely worse as better.
The police themselves are coming up with some reforms. Dallas police, for example, say they will no longer use choke-holds against us and that they will announce their intentions before they shoot us. Individual police will be asked to restrain other police who are doing things illegally. The Democrats have a bill in Congress that would theoretically change police from “warriors” to “protectors.” All non-transitional reforms are welcome, but they don’t change the fundamental relationship between police and the population.
Most recently, I hear the demand “defund the police” and re-allocate the money to developing poor communities. According to today’s Dallas newspaper, some City Councilpersons seem to be in favor! That demand might actually be transitional.
When I was a Trotskyite, we argued that transitional demands were those that could not be met while capitalism remained intact. We used to say that our Vietnam anti-war demand “Out Now!”, a very powerful and successful demand, was transitional. The argument was that capitalism could not exist without successful imperialism. With hindsight, we have to say that we were wrong, because America withdrew from Vietnam and went right on with imperialism.
In the 1960s we had a similar youth movement. Possibly bigger, although it’s hard to tell because there are literally hundreds of smaller demonstrations every day. But that was during a time of prosperity. Those student activists had very little chance of actually connecting with the working class, and in truth we didn’t.
Today, we probably have at least fifty million American families in dire economic straits. Most of the world is even worse off. The young activists won’t find it very hard, if they try, to connect with the rest of the working class. Nobody, except the affluent, like what is happening and is about to happen in America.
As the American labor federation, AFL-CIO, has already called for a “Day of Action” on June 17, which will include a demand for racial justice, we are likely to find out sooner rather than later about this worker/youth connection.
Today’s young activists, if they try, will not find it difficult to connect with the rest of the world working class, either. The most impressive thing about today’s demonstrations is their worldwide reach!
Could local governments “defund the police” and still maintain capitalist control over our giant working class? That’s the question that makes it all so interesting!
I don’t think we’re going to find out because I don’t think that police are likely to be defunded anytime soon, even though the demand will not disappear. It’s more likely that this demand will be added to future consciousness-raising economic demands that, considered together, will truly change the world!
I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. The program is podcast along with “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts every Wednesday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.
It is difficult to absorb the true gravity of today’s situation or the meaning of the protests in the cities of the world. Even though they have captured all the headlines and are undeniably important, I think they are only skirmishes in a battle that has yet to come.
From Wikipedia: “A skirmish is a term first used in the 14th century. It meant a small-scale fight between two opposing forces or a preliminarybattle involving troops in front of the main force.”
The main forces of the antagonists have not yet engaged. Only the advanced forces have begun the combat. The skirmishers on our side are the youth. They are more willing to fight, and they have more to fight for. On the other side, the skirmishers are police forces. They are the first line of administration for the people who run our society.
The main forces have yet to be committed. So far, the military has not been employed, at least not completely. Mr. Trump threatens to use them, and he certainly would, but he hasn’t yet. Organized labor, always defensive, is not likely to respond until there is no other choice. There is some hope that workers may organize outside the restrictions set up to cripple traditional unions. A general strike may not be so far in the future.
The economic situation makes the war inevitable. As American economic power decreased relatively, beginning in the early 1970s, the employers demanded more and more from the working class. For the workers, the situation has become intolerable. It is fight or die.
Class war is not new, but the circumstances have changed drastically. Workers are far better educated and far better networked than ever before. Employers not only have their traditional rifles and bayonets, but they also have nuclear weapons.
New strategies will come into play. It is unlikely that major working class forces will commit until the situation gets more desperate, but insightful people may be ready to fight now. The trick is to find each other and organize.
I’m on KNON’s ‘Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. The radio show and several “Workers Beat Extra” presentations are podcast every Wednesday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site..
Around the world, more people are in motion today than at any time since the early 1970s. The flash point was the police murder of Mr George Floyd in Minneapolis. There are demonstrations all over the planet, and some of them are quite militant. But do they have a plan?
Police brutality is hardly the only issue. Planet-wide, we are in an economic downturn that looks to become worse than the Great Depression. Any chance of saving Earth from environmental disaster is ticking away. The fascists among us are overwhelming our democracy. We are dying everywhere of a pandemic that is not, whatever the politicians might say, under control. All hope of international cooperation seems destroyed by President Trump. World war may be imminent. To put it succinctly, the system is breaking down.
I seek answers. As a talk radio host, I get to listen to a lot of heartfelt complaints. I ask them, “What should we do? What is the solution?” But they don’t know.
Social media is full of the same. Unending complaints about the world we live in; almost no positive suggestions. To be sure, the electoral enthusiasts among us continue to ask people to vote. I certainly agree with them, but I wouldn’t want to stand in front of the angry throngs of America today and say that my sole answer to their swollen anger is “vote Democrat in 2020.” They have heard that many times before, and they aren’t buying it.
The radicals among us, on both sides of the spectrum, aren’t connecting. One gentleman called our talk show and said that we need to re-institute segregation. What an awful person, but at least he had a plan! The so-called leftists call in and say that we have to “fight imperialism” or “smash the state.” They’re probably right, but those are long-term goals, not prescriptions for the here and now.
Labor Turns Away
Just about the best of the down-to-Earth solutions being posed has just slipped away from us. The AFL-CIO national labor federation had called for a “Day of Action” June 3 to win passage of the HEROES Act in Congress. The Act would greatly ameliorate the economic crisis. It would also help with the political crisis by providing more money for electoral reform. But, alas, just today, the national leadership postponed the Day of Action.
They sent out a statement that was very good, but didn’t really explain why they postponed their actions for June 3. It may well have been a result of last night’s attack on National AFL-CIO Headquarters in Washington DC. Windows were broken and a fire was set! We might assume that they believed that the June 3 Day of Action would invite more thuggery.
I absolutely loved the Tweet sent out by the President of the Central Labor Council in Sioux Falls, South Dakota: “It hurts to see damage being done to the @AFLCIO headquarters. But I believe it brings to light two facts: 1) The people did not recognize the building as the headquarters of a movement that fights for them 2) That is our fault.
In my opinion, the labor leadership made a major mistake. If labor is truly in solidarity with the anti-racists on the street, we should be on the street with them. Others are marching without condoning violence and looting, why shouldn’t we?
Another possibility is that the AFL-CIO does not want to risk being seen as anti-police because they generally welcome organized police associations into labor’s organizations. Some of us think that, too, is a mistake.
By calling off the Day of Action, our labor federation turns down the opportunity to lead the progressive movement in a positive direction. Our demand to pass the HEROES Act might not solve all of America’s problems, but it certainly goes in the right direction. Further, our demand had the distinction of being just about the only reasonable positive demand being proposed!
Vandals vandalize, looters loot, and America’s great and powerful progressive movement continues milling around leaderless! That’s our failure.
I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. The podcasts are on Soundcloud. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site
They don’t sound like very good choices, but that’s what’s being offered to the 99% by the 1% today. I know this because I attend a lot of meetings with representatives of working families, specifically union leaders.
Workplace safety is in shambles and is not getting better. The American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations has been demanding for some time that the Occupational Safety and Health Agency put forward some mandatory rules for workplace safety. OSHA hasn’t. The pandemic has just made it much worse.
OSHA was created during the Nixon Administration. It is charged with making sure that American workplaces are safe for everyone. Over the years, it has kept the mandate but lost the capacity. They don’t have enough resources to investigate much of anything; consequently, they don’t.
Workplaces may be safe if 1) Benevolent our insurance-minded bosses regulate themselves or 2) the workers have a union. Union workers have very few accidents. When they do, they generally get good care and compensation. But only about 11% of American workers have a union. The other 89% have to look out!
Undocumented workers are particularly at risk. It would be difficult to find out just how much “at risk” they are, because their accidents, even their deaths, are barely recorded. If they are lucky, the dead ones may get a wooden coffin and shipment to their country of origin. That’s about all the luck they have.
If they are hurt but not dead, undocumented workers tend to keep very quiet about it. A person can get fired for getting hurt, and undocumented workers have no protection, no recourse.
Here in Texas, there is an organization that specifically tries to help the undocumented. The Workers Defense Project collect data to show that construction jobs in Texas are the most dangerous jobs in the country. Of course, many of those jobs, and those bad statistics, are held by the undocumented.
Like every agency meant to help working families, OSHA is severely underfunded, is getting more underfunded, and has no prospects for getting more funding. That’s the situation in workplace safety.
The workplace safety situation is especially dire during the pandemic. Companies have no reason to reveal how many of their employees have the Coronavirus, and they have lots of motivation to keep it quiet so that other workers will continue producing wealth for them.
We hail the “essential workers” or “frontline workers.” We’d like to think that everybody loves them, but their bosses don’t. Lots of these self-sacrificing workers that are saving this nation and the world are working without proper training or equipment. It’s not just a few, it’s epic.
Union workers, as usual, are much better off than those without representation, but even union workers are getting shafted. I have been to several press conferences where union leaders announced the numbers of infected or dead members they have. Nearly all of those union leaders can point out workplaces where brave workers are risking the virus without what they need.
Undocumented workers, we’re talking millions of people, don’t get much of anything. They are treated as though they weren’t human. Interestingly, though, they can spread the virus just as well as any human. It is in everybody’s interest to take care of the undocumented and stop the virus, but they don’t. I made a mistake when I said “everybody’s interest,” I should have said “yours and my interest,” not the bosses.
So, the disease threat is really close at hand
Many of my friends, maybe even all of them, are compare Trump to Hitler. I don’t. Hitler had a mustache. Hitler was smart.
But the conditions that brought about fascism in Italy and Germany are, in a very broad sense, being replicated in America today. Maybe the public at large thinks that fascism is impossible in America. I don’t blame them for thinking that, but they ought to re-think.
Actually, America had a lot of fascists during Hitler’s time. Remember the veteran’s bonus march, for example? Lots of left-learning Americans love the story of the bonus march, especially because Generals MacArthur and Eisenhower burned them out. If the generals are the bad guys, then the bonus marchers must have been the good guys. Right?
But one of the main leaders of the bonus army was a jack-booted fascist. He and his followers, being working folks, wore khaki. So they weren’t fascist black shirts nor fascist brown shirts. They were fascist khaki shirts.
Remember good old Lindberg, “Lucky Lindy,” who flew the Atlantic? He was a Hitler-supporting fascist and he had a big political party behind him. They didn’t have televangelists in those days, no television, but one radio evangelist, Father Coughlin, had hundreds of thousands of listeners! In my own union, the autoworkers, a triumvirate took power. One of them clearly was a communist, but another one was called a fascist!
So don’t think fascism can’t take root in America, it already has.
The Japanese simplified things for Americans at Pearl Harbor, but before that there were a lot of Communists and a lot of fascists.
There were a lot of both of them in Germany, too. But Hitler killed the Communists. We have probably memorized, by now, how many Jews Hitler caused to be dead. I’ve never heard the head count on dead Communists, but I know that they were first. One of Hitler’s main appeals (to the bosses) was that he would kill the Communists.
Hitler killed everybody that opposed him, and he killed them first. Keep that in mind when thinking about the possibility of fascism in America. When/if fascism comes to America, wrapped in the flag and singing hymns, as they say, anybody who speaks up will be courting execution.
So we have accident, disease, or execution before us. They aren’t the only choices, but they can claim inevitability unless somebody on our side, the 99% side, does something. Left to their own choices, the 1% bosses have already set their course and their sails. They’ve pulled up their anchor, too.
Their destination is not that far away. Fascism and the execution of the good guys could take place before November. November is when America is supposed to have elections to determine who has power. Democrats share power, of course. They make a great show of sportsmanship and sharing power. But fascists don’t, and fascists are taking over in America right now.
Right now in America, the biggest issue is not the pandemic. It’s not the economic crisis, either. It’s whether or not we will be able to maintain the democracy that we have left. We’ve already watched while Republicans shredded much of our democracy. They got the Citizens United case passed through the Supreme Court. They gutted the Voting Rights Act. They have succeeded in legitimizing the foulest forms of gerrymandering and voter suppression already.
Because they love us and don’t want us to get sick, they have postponed most of our elections in 2020. Their love and concern does not extend to letting us vote safely by mail. They are dead set against that. But they don’t mind postponing our elections.