The Economic Policy Institute recently ran a couple of good studies about wages.


Factory Workers Earn More Money

EPI says, “…manufacturing workers still earn 13.0 percent more in hourly compensation than comparable private-sector workers. This manufacturing premium, however, has declined by about one-fourth (3.9 percentage points) since the 1980s, when it was 16.9 percent.” So why do manufacturing workers make more money than “comparable” people? And why is the margin diminishing?

Here’s another question that bugs the heck out of my friends who work in aerospace but are members of the Auto Workers Union: “Why do auto workers get much better contracts than aerospace workers?” We work just as hard and have had as much or more training. We have the same national union leaders, the same history, and the same intentions, but our wages and conditions have never been as good as theirs. Why?

It’s Not the Work, It’s the Organizing

Manufacturing workers are easier to organize than other workers. There are more of them in one place. They work closer together. They live closer together, They have more of the same interests. Contrast, for example, techies. Techies are notoriously hard to organize, even though they may really want a union. They live all over the place. They work almost entirely alone. Some of them actually work at home. They tend to travel for work. They don’t usually advance within the same company, but move from one company to another for advancement. It is very hard to organize techies.

The easier we are to organize, the more likely we are to have a union and thus get better wages.

Aerospace workers can cuss the auto workers all they want, but the fact is that auto workers were easier to organize. Assembly line production calls for the highest levels of cooperation among workers. Take just a few of the workers off an assembly line, and it has to shut down!

Airplanes, for the most part, aren’t made on assembly lines. It’s hard to win a strike in aerospace, but it’s much easier in auto. Better organizing, better contracts!

Why Is the Gap Decreasing?

EPI says that the gap between [organized] factory workers and everybody else is decreasing since 1980. I almost laughed when I saw that date. 1980 is the year that American government set new anti-worker policies and elected its best enforcer —
Ronald Reagan. So the question answers itself.

Unionism in America has atrophied beneath the government assault, and the advantage of unionism is not nearly as widespread as it was pre-Reagan. We fell from 35% of the workforce to the present 11%. Union workers still make way more money than non-union workers doing comparable work, but there just aren’t that many union workers left to bring up the statistics.

Whose Wages Are Rising?

The other interesting article from EPI said, “States with minimum wage increases between 2013 and 2017 saw faster wage growth for low-wage workers compared with states without any minimum wage increases (5.2 percent vs. 2.2 percent).”

Last month, Wall Street had a minor panic when it was announced that wages were rising for the first time in recent history. They were barely rising, but they were slightly higher than inflation for that same period. Since then, economists and political pundits have been saying that wages will continue to rise and that the government will have to take steps, such as raising interest rates, against the trend.

Capitalists may say otherwise, in fact they do, but they do not want wages to rise.

But wages did, statistically, rise a little bit in February, 2018. The reason was that some local and state governments, responding to political pressure from working people, were beginning to raise their minimum wages. An increase for low-wage workers has a profound effect on statistics, because there are so many low-wages workers. Also, all wages tend to rise when they are pushed up from the bottom.

Nineteenth century writers Karl Marx and Frederich Engels noted that workers would tend to benefit themselves more by organizing politically than they would by fighting the bosses one company at a time. It’s not a new idea; it’s just a true one.

Crossing the Line

There are a lot of references to “the line” in literature. There’s the “red line,” there’s the “line in the sand,” and there’s the “picket line.” If you want to get someone to answer the question “Which side [of the line] are you on?” just ask them if they support increasing the minimum wage. It cuts through a lot of verbiage.

Even though unemployment is statistically low, and the time is ripe for organizing, your own wages aren’t likely to rise much until you actually organize. Either organize a union on the job or organize politically to raise wages. That’s the road to success!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on 89.3FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 AM Central /Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.


The West Virginia teachers strike of 2018 was one of the most dramatically successful labor events of recent times. After striking for 9 days, they won a freeze on new health care costs and a 5% general wage increase for themselves and for all state workers! In addition, it was basically a wildcat strike, which means that it was not officially called by any of the three major unions involved and, thus, did not have their official backing. Official backing usually means strike benefits such as a small weekly stipend and, sometimes, health care for the duration of the strike. They didn’t have that.


On March 10, I had an organizer from one of the West Virginia support groups on KNON radio. Steven Noble Smith said that the preparations had begun last December. Here is how he described the overall characteristic of the strike: “It was rooted and grounded deeply in the everyday pain of working people!”

Smith’s group was one of several that joined in backing the school employees as their movement grew. “Everybody was welcome in this movement,” he told the KNON audience. At least one of the supporting organizations was political, the Working Families Party. Others had been inspired, perhaps, by the Bernie Sanders movement, or perhaps by their disgust with the current government.

One of the contributions of Smith’s group was raising funds for some of the workers who were striking without any remuneration. The money raised in a short period, over $300,000, was impressive. I also found out from Smith some of the other elements of a successful labor action such as training, regular public action, social media, and interacting with commercial newspersons. But what, I asked him pointedly, was the key?

Smith explained, “What matters… is mass action!” Beginning last December, school employees had been holding public actions. The group planning and the individual contributions, Smith said, were very innovative. Many of the actions took place in the state capitol.

Responses Not So Hot

The total victory in West Virginia was announced around March 6, which was primary election day here in Texas. There was news coverage, especially from national sources, but it was dwarfed by local election news. That’s not the worst of it.

I also went around and asked some of my union friends about their responses to West Virginia. They were pleased and a little bit awed. But any suggestion of seeing what we could do here at home brought exactly the response I had been dreading. “I wish my own union had members like West Virginia!”

It’s not just lately, I’ve been hearing this from union leaders for forty years! “Our members are chicken,” “Our members are Republicans,” “Our members would never take action,” etc etc etc. Excuses!

My Big Gripe

I can understand why unions seldom go on strike. Nobody wants to. There’s a lot of pain and a lot of risk involved. The government pretends to be neutral, but it isn’t. Even easier forms of concerted action such as boycotts, petitioning campaigns, and slowdowns are perilous for unions and for the individuals involved. That’s not my complaint.

My complaint is that unions and, especially, union staffers, don’t try. Undoubtedly, the West Virginia school employees were not ready to strike last December. It took three months for them to get ready, and that three months of preparation paid off for them in March.

That’s what we ought to be learning from West Virginia — that preparations for concerted action should under way. Otherwise, how do we expect to survive the present onslaught?

-Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM every Saturday from 9 AM to 10AM. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

I received a mailing to help me promote “School Choice Week” on the air.

At KNON radio studios, I receive  a lot of right-wing mail. I think it’s because my program is called “Workers Beat” and conservatives can’t conceive of a radio show that is actually for workers. When one says “workers” they assume you mean management, I guess, because all the other radio programs are either written by the bosses or approved by them. I throw away a lot of free books about how to get more work out of workers.

The School Choice mailing came from a post office box in some town in California. It says that there are 32,240 American events to promote “school choice” during January 21-27.  It says that 6.7 million students and supporters will be participating. It says there are 54 events in my town. It says I should promote them on KNON radio and it offers me materials to broadcast.

I assume they sent this to every radio station in America at considerable cost. It’s part of a national effort to destroy the public schools. If you aren’t worried, you should be.


A Little History on Schooling

America, more than most countries, advanced free public education. It’s one of the reasons that America shot ahead of the rest of the world in the 20th century. But there was always resistance. It took a Civil War to offer free public education to African American children, for example, and even then their public schooling was inferior to that offered to the Master Race of American Anglos. It still is.

The Brown Vs Topeka Supreme Court case in 1954 signaled a renewed fight for fair education. Whites were encouraged to fight against fairness in a number of interesting ways. One way was to move to white suburbs. One way was to create “magnet schools.” These “magnets” drew off the most outspoken activist parents and gave them what they wanted — decent education for their own kids — while leaving the rest of the kids, largely those with parents who had to work, behind.

They loosened the restraints on home schooling for the parents who didn’t have to work. Another way was to push for school vouchers so that tax money could be used for private schools. Yet another way was to push for “charter schools” to use tax money in ways that were out of the control of the people.

It’s the same fight that we were having during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but in different forms.

Who Wants to Destroy Public Education?

The people with the most money want to stop paying taxes. A lot of federal money, and the largest part of any state budget, goes to education. That’s tax money that rich people would rather not pay. After all, their kids don’t even need the public schools. They have always had better schools, before the Civil War and after.

In this regard, wealthy people’s desire to stop paying taxes, the effort to undermine public schooling fits into the larger explanation of what’s wrong in American politics today. In order to maintain their profits and beat their international competitors, wealthy Americans are trying to contain their costs. We are their costs. Public school children are their costs, in their view.

Public schools retain all their traditional enemies, too. Religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular head the list. They think they can get public money to promote their superstitions. In the short run, they can, because the very wealthy welcome any help they can get to destroy public education. Look at poor Louisiana!

In the long run, the very wealthy don’t want to pay for Catholic schools, either, so their little cabal won’t endure very far beyond the collapse of public education. The Catholics will be left at the altar once their usefulness is over.

Just to be Clear

State legislatures have been cutting public education funding for some time. It is especially true in states where right-wing Republicans have seized control. First they drain away all the resources, then they impose crazy unreasonable rules, then they piously claim that the schools are “failing.” Then they cut some more and pass some more rules.

One doesn’t have to be smart to figure out that they intend to rob American children of their right to a decent education.

Public education

Fight Back

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the main unions, are forming coalitions with community groups to clarify the issues and direct the fightback. I’m proud that the main labor federation, AFL-CIO, backs them.

As usual, our enemies have many ways to divide us. They say that they are magnanimously seeking ways to overcome school “failures.” They say they are promoting “innovation,” and “school choice.” They are spending a lot of money to buy politicians and do direct advertising.

That’s why I got the stupid mailing about “school choice week.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9AM central time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.




I talk to the young folks, they don’t understand,

‘A thing this old man has to say…”

–from the song “I Wish I Was 18 Again” as sung by Jerry Lee Lewis


I would tell young people that they are going to have to win their rights all over again. I would also tell them not to settle for what their parents had. I would tell them to figure out what needs to be done to get things right, even if it takes some time and experimentation, and then to do it!

False Roads Are Almost the Only Roads

I suppose that everyone is entitled to their own mistakes. In my 50 years of activism, Almost everything I ever did turned out to be mistaken, so I certainly have no right to expect young people to do any better than my own sorry example. Nevertheless, I have to try to warn you.

You Will End Up Working for the Man

Almost all of us want to choose a career that will actually make things better than they are. That’s why there are so many college students in the arts and in social studies. They want to do something meaningful while earning their living. It sounds reasonable but it’s nonsense.

In this system, we work for the people who have money and power. We perform the duties laid out by the people who sign our paychecks. The people with money and power are not the people who want change, no matter how they may sugar-coat it. If we want to make a living, we have to please them. So don’t waste your time trying to find a job as a progressive change agent, you will, sooner or later, be disappointed. A better career choice is one where you can make as much money as possible with as little of your time as possible. Look for a job with a union or one that can be organized into a union.

When In Doubt, Choose Democracy

When you are confronted with a decision about how to best employ your resources in the struggle for a better world, democracy makes a good guideline. In general, the political system democracy is in opposition to the economic system capitalism. Democracy pushes for equality. Capitalism has to have inequality.

Study Our History

Their history tells us that George Washington overcame British autocracy, that Lincoln freed the slaves, and that Martin Luther King Jr ended discrimination. Without taking anything away from these outstanding people, we need to acknowledge the masses of people who did the work before them.

Take, for example, the civil rights movement. It didn’t start in Montgomery in 1954. It was well underway before slaveholder George Washington’s time. There were great people who made great sacrifices to win the degree of racial equality that we have presently attained. Some of them were preachers, teachers and wonderful orators, but, in the final analysis, Black people in America freed themselves!

The union movement is responsible for bringing economic and social advancement for workers. There were some wonderful leaders that we know of. But the union movement, by its very nature, consists of and relies on the rank and file members. Workers in America, to the extent that we are free, freed ourselves!

The War Continues

We sometimes win a battle against our bosses; we sometimes lose one. But the war will continue as long as they are in charge. Every advance that we make will have to be won again, sooner or later.

So, my young friends, you will have to win everything that was won before. I’m hoping you’ll go further.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site


I just looked it up: “torpor. : a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility : extreme sluggishness or stagnation of function.”


It’s my diagnosis for America. Every election here in Texas, people say, “We’re not a red state, we’re a non-voting state,” “Turnout is everything, ” and “If people would only vote…”  It’s not just voting, either.

Every public action lives or dies by its numbers, and those numbers are often in the twenties. True, the protests associated with Trump’s 2017 inauguration brought more people into America’s streets than ever before in America’s history. The 2018 turnout wasn’t bad, either.

Activists are holding their breaths to see what kind of turnout they will get when/if Trump fires Mueller or Rosenstein. I’m holding my breath over it for a slightly different reason: the call is for a major public action either at five PM on the day of the firing or at noon the next day.  I want to see what would happen if the protest occurred at noon on a workday.

Virtually all major calls for public protests occur on Saturday, Sunday, or a Holiday. That’s because turnout is paramount. It’s also because Americans are not familiar with the idea of a general strike. Sometimes called a political strike, it means that people take off work over something bigger than a shop-floor issue. It’s a weapon we desperately need in our American arsenal, but we haven’t done much about it so far.

What’s the Cure?

If non-participation is the symptom and torpor is the diagnosis, what do we do about it?The first step toward a remedy is to understand the problem. Our American torpor is partially a product of our ignorance, partly our arrogance, but mostly comes from our fear. Americans are afraid to stand up together.

The remedy, my friend, is you. You have to be the one to vote, to speak out, and to protest. When other people see you showing courage, they will have a little more courage of their own. This, of course, is not a simple remedy. It will take time and a lot of work.

Gene Lantz

I get to speak out on KNON radio every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out




You may not have seen the census report indicating that labor’s numbers went up in 2017. Also, the Los Angeles Times unionized! This could be a great year for working people!

I spent the weekend January 19-22 in Austin listening to speeches and attending workshops with the Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (COPE).


There were over 400 labor leaders, young and old. Speakers included candidates for governor of Texas, international union presidents, and one of the top national AFL-CIO leaders, Liz Schuler.  I’ve put summaries on and on plus several Facebook pages.

I was delighted!

The endorsement process was very telling. To begin with, they refused to endorse the one-and-only Democrat running for the U.S. Senate. President Rick Levy said that labor just didn’t want to be taken for granted, and the guy hadn’t shown up! Next, they skipped over the sharp-talking right-centrist governor’s candidate with the most money and the most fund-raising ability so they could endorse a gay Latina!

When the endorsement proposals were presented, one delegate got up to say that we shouldn’t be so incautious in endorsing her. He didn’t say why, but the next 4 or 5 speakers blasted homophobia, sexism, racism, and every other kind of chauvinism they could think of! Then the congregation ratified the endorsement overwhelmingly!

Doesn’t sound like the old labor movement at all. In the old days, they were reluctant to endorse anybody in primary elections. They just waited until the Democrats had decided, then carefully chose a few candidates that they thought might win with or without their help. Then they went through the motions of helping, mostly with surreptitious financial donations that their members hardly ever found out about.

Election Tactics

Several speakers, including the hired professional political science experts, talked about a new way of doing things. It was actually kind of hard for me to understand what they meant. As far as I understand anything, they are still going to be relying on phone banking and door-to-door canvassing of union members only. They just plan to do a lot more of it and they plan to start “in March instead of October.” (I enjoyed telling them that my organization started in early January, last week!)

But there may be some qualitative differences. They may rely on town hall meetings and even home meetings more than the grueling long-distance canvassing that we ordinarily do. They may try to discourage donations to candidates in favor of using the money to pay union activists to work on our own electoral program. That would be a really big difference!

I’m not positive about what they will end up actually doing. Everything unions do is done in government straight-jackets, so they may not be able to vary their tactics as much as they would like.

It Feels Different, It Feels Good!

I’ve been to many union political conferences and I’ve been around the union movement at least 40 years. I don’t remember ever seeing so much enthusiasm. I don’t remember so much unity. I don’t remember ever having so much confidence in the leadership. I don’t remember hearing so many things that made sense.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on at 9 AM central time every Saturday. If you’re interested in what I really think, check out


Every serious progressive I know is gearing up for election work. There are basically two ways to go about it, and I would like to contrast them here. I’ll call them “what we normally do” and “what we oughta do.”




In almost every election, progressives work for certain candidates or we work for a political party. Analysis leads us toward choosing candidates and races where we can win. America’s elections, unlike those in more civilized countries, are “winner take all.” You either win a race or you lose it; consequently, activists check the demographics and opinion polls before they deploy their resources.

One of the important things that people look at before designating a certain candidate as “viable” is “how much money have they raised?” It is my understanding that 85% of all American elections could be predicted if we knew which candidate had the most money.

According to today’s newspaper, Texas Democratic governor candidate Mark White just became more “viable” than Lupe Valdez because he raised more than twice as much money in their first reporting period.

It’s ironic that White now has $100,000 in campaign money, while the incumbent Republican he wants to run against has $40,000,000 and rising. So White may be more “viable” than Valdez by this standard, but he’s 400 times less “viable” than Governor Abbott!

Nevertheless, Democrats will work for the more “viable” candidate and their fund-raising ability will be an important determinant.

At the end of the campaign, the chosen candidates will either win or lose. The people and organizations that put their time and treasure into those campaigns will think they either have a “friend” or an “enemy” in the given political position, but that’s about all they will have. Those “friend” and “enemy” designations aren’t very concrete. Our “friends” often betray us because they weren’t sincere to begin with. Nearly all politicians are opportunists who look out for themselves first and always.

Next elections, the progressive activists will go through it all again. They will start more or less empty handed, and they will end up more or less the same way. The one concrete thing that they will gain is a sense of self-sanctification that allows them to gripe about everybody else right up to the next election: “Why didn’t those so-and-sos vote!”

A Better Approach to Elections

Progressives should develop the ability to see past candidates, political parties, and elections. They should examine their own goals and realize that what they really want is fundamental improvement in our society — a lot more improvement than was ever intended by Democrats or Republicans!

To get that kind of change, progressives need to build our own progressive organizations. There are a lot of progressive organizations worth building, but my personal favorite is the American labor movement.

Instead of pursuing candidates or parties during elections, we can and should be examining our organizations and looking for ways to strengthen them. One of the best explanations I’ve ever seen came from some West Coast labor people who developed a “labor neighbor” campaign.

“Labor neighbor,” in essence, is a process of locating and strengthening the individual activists within a progressive organization. A union might, for example, identify one of their members who really wants to work for change. They then provide information and support for that member. Instead of canvassing door-to-door where some candidate wants them, they would canvass in that particular member’s neighborhood. His or her electoral strength would improve for that election, but also beyond the election to the next election or to the next political opportunity.

Then they pick another good activist and help him/her the same way. Labor/neighbor!

I’ve been working on a similar approach within the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans. Our Dallas Chapter identified one member, Mary, who was willing to improve her political strength in her own precinct. We were able to get two big lists of her neighbors. We telephoned a bunch of them and invited them over to Mary’s for coffee and donuts.

Mary ended up with a lot of information that can help her in whatever political opportunities, including the current elections, present themselves. I thought it was a pretty good program and I’d like to see it extended.

But I realize that a lot of political-minded progressives aren’t going to prioritize this kind of work. They are going to chase after some candidate or some political party in 2018 just as they always have done. There are two different philosophies here: one believes that election work is an end unto itself; the other believes that building a progressive movement is the priority.

One is purely reformist, the other has revolutionary potential.

Elections Matter, But They Aren’t Everything

Some radical activists don’t believe in elections at all, but I’m not one of them. I believe that every arena of political struggle should be utilized to bring about desired progressive changes in society. In my “labor neighbor” model above, the designated activist who was strengthened in his electoral work is also strengthened in other matters.

He/she, for example, might be able to bring some neighbors to a march or a picket line that had nothing to do with electoral politics but had everything to do with building progressive people’s power. As he/she applies their newfound ability and strength, they will develop more of each. The progressive movement will consequently grow toward being able to make some real improvement.

It’s not just a game.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on radio 89.3FM every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, try