Labor Day: Labor Got It Right — Who Could Have Known?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
“Who could have known?” That’s the cry from the big-corporate and DC elite as the economy and the environment and so many imporant things crash around us. (Around us, not them, they’re doing just fine and taking good care of each other.)
Who could have known that 25%-per-year house price increases was a bubble?
Who could have known that a housing bubble could burst?
Who could have known that deregulating the financial industry could lead to a financial meltdown?
Who could have known that concentration of wealth could cause consumer demand to dry up?
Who could have known that huge tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military spending increases could cause massive budget deficits?
Who could have known that the Social Security trust fund needed a “lockbox” so it wouldn’t be given away as tax cuts?
Who could have known a deregulated deep-water well could cause a massive, destructive, uncontrolled underwater gusher?
Who could have known that continuing to put carbon into the air would cause problems for the climate?
Who could have known that moving our factories out of the country would lead to high unemployment and structural trade deficits?
Who could have known that invading Iraq was wrong and a deadly, disastrous, costly, long-term mistake?
Who could have known that a too-small stimulus that focused on tax cuts wouldn’t turn the economy completely around and then conservatives would claim that the stimulus “killed the recovery?”
(List continues into infinity…)
Add organized labor to the list of those who got it right, time after time.
Organized labor was right about the 40-hour workweek.
They were right about the middle class.
They were right about the weekend.
They were right about paid vacations.
They were right about paid holidays.
They were right about paid sick leave.
They were right about providing good, secure retirement plans for everyone.
They were right about providing unemployment benefits to tide people over.
They were right about providing maternity leave, child care and family leave for families.
They were right that trade agreements like NAFTA and letting China into the WTO would lead to massive trade deficits and job losses.
They were right about workplace and consumer safety.
They were right about keeping manufacturing in America.
They were right about fighting discrimination in the workplace.
They were right about raising the minimum wage and the effect that low-wage policies would have on the economy.
They were right about the effect of excessive CEO pay on the economy.
They were right about the devastating effect of the Bush tax cuts.
They were right about the need to maintain and modernize our country’s infrastructure.
They were right about going green.
They were right ab out the dangers of Wall Street’s financialization of the economy.
They were right about providing good health care to everyone.
They were right about strengthening, not cutting Social Security.
They were right about democratizing corporate governance.
They were right about fighting privatization.
They were right about fighting deregulation.
They were right about providing good education opportunities to everyone.
They were and are right that we need a national jobs agenda
Labor was right about people joining together instead of being on our own.
(List continues into infinity…) They were right and they continue to be right.
And unions have been fighting for these things for all of us, not just for their members.
Please add to these lists in the comments! What other things could nobody have known, and what other things did labor get right?
Enjoy Labor Day. In fact, for those of you that still have jobs after the decades of conservative policies, enjoy having weekends off, the 40-hour week, paid vacations, sick pay, health care, etc. And if you have a job but don’t have those things … JOIN A UNION!
P.S. Here’s an example of being right:

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How Companies Turn People Against Unions

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

If you had a company and could make people work for free, keeping all the proceeds just for yourself, you might do that. If you could. What’s stopping you? There are plenty of unemployed people in the country and in the world – more every day thanks to population growth, and computers and machines doing more of the work that needs to be done. So if someone complains, you can just replace them with someone who doesn’t complain. You have the power. So what’s stopping you?

As a working person, how do you negotiate for fair pay, benefits and rights where you work? People in a job can be on their own against a lot of power, taking whatever the employer is willing to trade for their work. Or they can join with the rest of the employees at the workplace and negotiate as a group. Banding together to fight for a fair share is called organizing into a union.

People who own companies think that the company is their “private property” and they can do what they want with it, regardless of the effect on the people who work there or the surrouding community. Their goal is to make as much money as possible and to do that you lower costs as much as possible. Those costs include the cost of disposing of harmful waste products, the quality and safety of the products produced, and the pay and benefits you provide workers. In this equation unions are a problem. They have the power to make you pay more and provide safety and benefits, so they are in the way of keeping as much as you can just for yourself.

Obviously the greater society — the people who make the rules that companies are supposed to follow — has very different interests from the people who own companies. Society wants to avoid being exposed to harmful waste products, and wants the people in the society to be paid well and have good benefits. Society wants healthy communities. Society wants good and safe products that don’t use up our resources. The people in the society are generally going to want rules that lead to better results for the greater number of people. Unless they can be convinced otherwise.

So the owners of companies try to convince us that unions are bad. They form and fund “business groups” like the Chamber of Commerce, to fight to keep unions from having the right and power to organize their workers. We hear it repeated over and over in our corporate-dominated society, a drumbeat that labor unions are sinister, shady, harmful, corrupt, violent, “raise prices,” ”cost jobs,” and generally hurt the economy and country. We hear they force workers to pay dues (never mind that unionized workers pay the dues from higher pay and benefits.) We hear that “union bosses” tell workers what to do and “union thugs”make them do it. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. The owners of companies have a lot of money to spend on convincing the public to let them have free reign, and they know from selling products how to sell things to the public. Repetition, repetition and repetition. Marketing works.

This Labor Day weekend we can expect to hear even more of this. Business groups plan Labor Day blitz against Senate Dems, candidates,

Local chapters of groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, state Associated Builders and Contractors and other commerce and retail groups will hold events on Monday targeting the incumbents and candidates, particularly on their stance on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or “card-check”).

But you shouldn’t expect to see, hear or read on any corporate-owned TV station, radio station or newspaper about the benefits to people from joining a union. Think back and see if you can remember the last time you heard it explained to the public in one of these outlets how members of unions are better off?

How widespread is the anti-labor effort? Here’s a quick, admittedly unscientific check. On Google today there are 54,800 websites that refer to “union thugs,” 154,000 websites that refer to “union bosses” and 200,000 that refer to “big labor.” Please click through and look not only at the ridiculous things being written, but also at who is writing them.

The first page of Google “results for “union bosses” lists anti-union pages from Big Government, The Center for Union Facts , The Washington Times, Human Events, Redstate, Townhall, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the book “Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics” by Fox News analyst Linda Chavez and Danial Gray of the National Right to Work Committee.

The Center for Union Facts, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee are anti-union sites funded by corporations and right-wing foundations. According to a report in SourceWatch, The National Right to Work Committee and National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation even share facilities and employees. Big Government, Human Events, Townhall, Redstate, Fox News and the Washington Times are conservative movement outlets that are part of the coordinated Right Wing Noise Machine, or echo chamber, in which a number of outlets appear to be different entities but work as part of a single movement with a shared goal. (P.S. Big Government is the site where the doctored ACORN videos and doctored video of Shirley Sherrod were promoted.)

Admittedly unscientific, but interesting nonetheless. There’s a lot of anti-union money floating around out there.
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