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

Take a look at recent news from the point of view of the progressive movement. Keep in mind that only the working class, and working class issues, can truly pull the movement together. The entire working class will not unite over gun control, over the right to abortion, over civil rights, or any of the other important causes. Wages and working conditions will unite us, because all of us care most about them.

On May 6, Texas held the first primary elections of the season. Democrats were overjoyed to double the turnout that they had in the last mid-term elections. Republicans improved about 15%. But the raw number of votes determines election winners, not percentages of improvement. While the Democrats were able to get a million voters to the polls, the Republicans got half again as many. The leading Democrat, Beto O’Rourke for Senate, got 600,000 votes, while the Republican incumbent got 1.3 million! The same was true in the governor’s race.

One of the reasons for improved Democratic Party turnout was that they fielded candidates in every race, even in the ones where they were almost sure to lose. There’s a downside to that, because some of the contested seats were held by rock-solid working class incumbents with 100% pro-worker voting records. Politicians are mostly opportunists, not principled leaders.

Labor is calling the results “mostly good news” because over 90% of our endorsed candidates got into runoffs or won outright. But we lost three of the best of the state representatives, including Roberto Alonzo of Dallas who has been honored nationwide for his commitment to labor’s cause. Labor worked hard for their candidates

Progressive Movement Remains Fragmented

No one could deny that there is an upsurge in the progressive movement since the 2016 elections. The big improvement in voting statistics demonstrates it. But cohesion is not one of the grand characteristics. The most unifying theme among Democrats was dislike for President Trump, according to the pundits.

But the only way they could unite effectively is around the basic issues of the working class, and the election results did not show that trend. While the AFL-CIO could honestly claim a 90% success rate, another organization, Emily’s List, which only endorses on women’s issues, could claim 100%, according to the Politico news service. All their endorsed women were in runoffs or had won outright.

Labor’s candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor was controversial because of being a woman, a Latina, and gay; but she won a thumping big plurality and goes into the runoff with a big advantage among Democratic voters. It would be a stretch to claim that she did so well because of the AFL-CIO endorsement, when Emily’s List had better results.

People who want serious change remain confronted with this problem: how can we unite the progressive movement?

Best News Was Barely Reported

While pages and pages of newsprint covered the Texas elections, there was scant coverage of the teachers’ strike in West Virginia. But from the point of view of unifying the progressive movement around workers’ issues, the news from West Virginia was at least as important, if not more so. For the first time in years, American labor saw a well planned and well-executed strike create big gains for workers. By holding out statewide for nine days, those teachers won a 5% raise for themselves and for all state workers. They also got a freeze on health care costs. The AFL-CIO Executive Board endorsed the strike in, I think, about the 7th day. The American Federation of Teachers spoke encouragement, but I didn’t see any of the nationwide forces really throwing themselves into it. The main fund raising I saw was one of those “go fund me” accounts.

In today’s news, way back in the back pages, teachers in Oklahoma have issued an ultimatum to their legislature. Arizona teachers are also talking strike.

Historical View is Bad, but Mostly Good

A lot of people, including me, believe that economic conditions are leading the capitalist class toward choosing fascism as their preferred form of rule. The great robbery called the “tax cut” went through Congress in December with very little popular support. Despite their best efforts, it is unlikely that the rich will convince Americans to warm to it very much.

What I’m saying is that it is getting harder for the rich to continue robbing the American people. That’s why they are working so hard to disarm us with voter suppression, dangerous foreign policy, anti-union legislation and legal decisions, deregulation, redistricting, and destruction of civil rights and civil liberties. Once our rights are gone, we can’t defend ourselves at all. That’s fascism.

Even though I think the obscenely wealthy are likely to choose fascism, I don’t think they will be able to implement it. That’s the good news. We aren’t as dumb as they may think. Actually, we’re far better educated and far more capable of coming together than the Italians and Germans of the 1930s were.

This is the time to organize. Low unemployment and high discontent are the ingredients for a great upsurge. Despite the low voter turnout numbers, Americans have more energy, and it is more generalized, then at any time since World War II. We may be fragmented, but we won’t stay that way. Once we are united, nothing can stop us!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas from 9 to 10 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are interested in 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


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



2018 stretches before us like a blank canvas. Economists and Republican politicians are painting a gorgeous festival on it. Democrats are using only one color: black.


Predictions Take the Safe Road

Nearly all predictions are just linear projections of trends currently underway. For example, American production has been rising slightly so the prediction is that it will rise even more. Unemployment has been low, so the prediction is that it will stay low. I saw one prediction saying that wages will go up in 2018, even though they have been going down since the 1970s.

For A Few, Everything Looks Great!

The disastrous “Tax and Jobs Bill” that just passed the Congress shows what is intended. It is a gigantic giveaway to the rich at the long-term expense of the poor.  This is not a new trend. It has been going on clearly since American domination of the world began to diminish in the late 1970s. It is reasonable safe, therefore, to predict that the rich will continue to get much richer and the poor much poorer in 2018. Inequality will worsen.

Using the same linear projection approach, one would have to conclude that democracy will continue to ebb and the environment will get even less hospitable.

Politics May Get Messy

The last poll before the Republicans passed their big giveaway, conducted by NBC News, said that only 24% of the American people supported the legislation. Republicans say that people will start liking it as soon as they see tiny improvements in their paychecks beginning in January. Democrats say that support for “trickle down” will fall even further as people see what was actually in the bill.

As 2018 begins, Republicans and their only legislative accomplishment are extremely unpopular. President Trump has the lowest ratings in history. Does that mean that they are going to take a mighty hit in the November elections? Are the Democrats going to take charge and bring back the rosy Obama days?

We should be skeptical. Republicans are backed by an awful lot of money, and money wins elections. Also, they hold state power. Who is to say how they might use their money and their power before November?

They might, for example, start another war. They’ve been talking up war with North Korea for months and they have the ability to start such a war just at the time when they consider it most propitious for their election prospects. It worked for both Bush Presidents, who had low ratings before invading Iraq and high ratings afterward. Sure, lots of people would die, but Republicans might well benefit at the polls!

Before deciding that the Democrats will surely make a comeback in November, remember that they have problems of their own. They robbed Bernie Sanders of the 2016 presidential nomination and, by now, everybody knows it. Deputy Democratic Party  Chairman Keith Ellison is touring America right now to try to bring all the Bernies back into the fold, but it’s safe to say that some of them won’t come. The Democrats would have to be really sloppy to not make some gains in 2018, but will they actually turn things around?

In summary, the safe set of expectations for 2018 is that it will be great for the great, but not for us.

What to Hope For

A lot of really good  things could happen in 2018. Low unemployment and high consciousness are requisites for an organizing boom. If unions and the other types of organizations presently underway aggressively take advantage of the situation, we could see some real organizational strength develop for working people. Then (and only then) we might expect to see a reversal in the steady decline in our American wages, benefits, and living standards.

There must be half a dozen organizations expecting to take over the Democratic Party, end all corruption, end its dedication to capitalism, and make it a workers’ party. There are others who believe they can create a workers party — perhaps from the Greens or from the Working Families Party — or from scratch. Conditions for a workers party have never been better because of the high educational levels and consciousness of the American people.

The progressive movement is a giant in America. The Women’s March on the day after Trump took power put more people on the streets than ever before in American history. They are planning another one in January 2018.

Even though very few Americans even know what a political strike is, they are becoming common in other parts of the world. With modern communications and the high level of consciousness among people, especially among young people, we may see major changes in America that come from outside the electoral system.

Expect the worst. Hope for and work for the best!

–Gene Lantz

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



Book Review:

Schrecker, Ellen: Many Are the Crimes. McCarthyism in America. Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1998.


I remember the 1950s like white bread: bland, not nourishing, and an important part of every meal. Books, movies, and all things cultural talked about “the American way” as if it were the best of all worlds and the best ever created or imagined. Socialism was never mentioned, except in a pejorative way in movies like “I Married a Communist” or “I Was a Communist for the FBI!” We did not smoke dope in Muscogee, or anywhere else as far as I knew. We kept our hair short and our minds shorter.

It has taken many years for me to realize that the wasteland of the 1950s was created deliberately. Too bad I didn’t have Ellen Schrecker’s book in 1953! It would have saved me a lot of personal anguish.


Schrecker details important aspects of the anti-communist crusade from World War I to modern times. Except for a brief period during World War II, when the United States and the Soviet Union were wary allies, the crusade was relentless.

Schrecker is an academic, so don’t expect her to take sides. She’s just reporting what happened. Academics are afraid to take sides. However, the sheer immensity of the government-run effort to destroy civil rights, civil liberties, and any kind of resistance speaks for itself.

The author reminds us often that she doesn’t sympathize with the communists. She stands on the high ground of impartiality, and, in a way, that makes the facts about the  FBI and the other zealots even stronger.

Schrecker doesn’t shrink from pointing out that a great many of the tactics implemented by the FBI and taken up by other government entities were illegal. A great deal of the testimony against communists and liberal thinkers consisted of FBI-solicited lies. J. Edgar Hoover is hardly the only guilty party. Schrecker doesn’t spare the intellectuals and liberals who all-too-easily jumped on the anti-communist bandwagon. She also doesn’t spare the right-wing union officials who cashed in when, with government help, they drove the militants out of the American union movement.

I’m particularly interested in what happened to the American unions after 1947, when the anti-communist and anti-union Taft-Hartley law was passed. Unions resisted it at first, but here’s what Schrecker says on page 380: “…by the early 1950s, most of the nation’s unions had adjusted to the law and abandoned their struggle against it. It was a serious mistake. Taft-Hartley created an unfavorable legal environment that forced the entire labor movement onto the defensive. Unable to employ the aggressive organizing tactics that had been successful in the 1930s, unions found it difficult to expand. As a result, by the 1970s, when the postwar boom began to falter and the well-paid blue-collar jobs of the members began to disappear, labor was unable to mobilize either the political or the economic clout to protect its earlier gains. It’s numbers dropped… Instead of reaching beyond its traditional white male constituency in the heavy industry and skilled trades of the Northeast, Midwest, and West, the labor movement turned inward and raided its own left wing.”

On page 382: “Its rupture with the left hastened its transformation from a movement to a bureaucracy…. Once the left-wingers were gone, organized labor lost its dynamism….”

The saddest of the tragedies throughout this long, detailed book comes on the last page when the author considers “Can it happen again?” “…the process through which McCarthyism came to dominate American politics is infinitely replicable.” In less academic language: Yes, it can happen again.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you’re interested in what I really think, look at