Imagine America without Unions

Imagine what life in the United States would (or will) be like without unions. To conjure up such an image, one needs only to go back in time when unions didn’t exist… back to the Dark Ages and feudalism, back to injustice, slavery, indentured servants, and castles surrounded by rat-infested thatched-roof shanties housing the starving, uneducated paupers.

Yes, picture what it would be like to try to survive without a union. It’s a journey, if braved, one cannot simply forget.

Wisconsin went down in flames tonight (June 5, 2012). Labor in this country suffered a major blow. The general election is next. As labor goes, so goes the Democratic Party. Are its leaders that obtusely ignorant? Labor is the base of the Democratic Party as are white fundamentalists the base of the Republican Party. DNC leadership needs a swift kick in the ass right now. They have a history of defecating on their own base while appeasing enemies in the other party, a party pledged to destroy us.

The blame lies at the feet of Barack Obama who showed no courage in standing up against poor advice dished out by his spineless political staff. He promised in 2007 to put on walking shoes to demonstrate with labor if collective bargaining was ever challenged. Where was he?

Although the Chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party did not blame the national organization for the colossal defeat tonight, party and union members (for the most part) do. I hate to break it to DNC leaders: Wisconsin Democrats will not be very inclined to vote for Obama in November. They feel betrayed, stabbed in the back. After such a long, expensive and bitter battle, Wisconsin Dems cannot be energized to vote party-line in November so soon after this heart-wrenching defeat that could have been a victory if only the national leadership would have done its job. A traditional Democratic state in general elections, Wisconsin is now a swing state – thanks to Obama’s broken promises.

On the other hand, Republicans nation-wide sense a license to bash unions more. The impact was predictable. Only the DNC couldn’t foresee.

Wisconsin Democrats were outspent 8 to 1 – thanks to George W. Bush’s Supremes which unleashed billionaires to buy Wisconsin. The Citizens United decision will go down in history as one of the worst, on a par with Dred-Scott. But that does not in any way excuse Democratic Party leaders who were AWOL from the Wisconsin war. As a result, Wisconsin may be lost to Romney in November, thus sweeping the entire election for the right. The DNC blew it.

When in Wisconsin March 2012, I heard most union members voice support for a general strike in response to Walker’s killing collective bargaining. The DNC and AFL-CIO national officers quickly jumped in and advised Wisconsin Dems to take the more “civil” course: recall elections. They claimed we would have success that way, but a general strike would be counterproductive, they said.

Unfortunately, Wisconsinites accepted their advice. Where were the national leaders and national money when needed most after they advised recalls? It was pure BS.

Without an ounce of shame, rightwing extremists over the country now call union members “thugs.” I personally heard that derogatory remark several times on my visit to Wisconsin March 2011, and now I hear it like a cascading avalanche from politicians, governors, and so-called “Christians” (the white rightwing derivative). Without question, anti-unionism is on a roll. Union members are the “Jews” of the neo-Nazi movement which we politely call the U.S. Republican Party today. Every cult requires a scapegoat to justify its existence; unionists are currently the rightwing’s.

Apparently there’s a lot of hate and animosity out there for folk that bargain with their bosses to achieve better working conditions, benefits and pay. Is that wrong? Many rightwing Americans think so. Unfortunately, they’ve been brainwashed by the right’s noise machine. Plus, the Democratic leadership has a major messaging problem. They’re blinded by ivory palace comfort and isolation from the core grassroots.

Labor unions have a long and challenging history in the United States. To some people, they conjure up thoughts of organized crime and gangsters like Jimmy Hoffa. To workers who actually know first-hand, labor unions represent solidarity among the working classes, bringing people together across many levels to lobby for better rights, wages and benefits. Unions are also an important and fundamental part of the history of United States commerce and the country’s growth into an economic powerhouse.

Without unions, there’d be no Middle Class, no 40-hour week, no weekends, no over-time, no child-labor laws, no pensions, no healthcare, no workers’ comp, and no job safety regulations.

Without unions, everyone beneath the 1% would be making less than minimum wage. Without unions, workers would be fired for no reason with no one to represent them in case they wanted their jobs back.

So what do unions do and why are they still important? Labor unions help ALL workers today – including those in a non-union shop. Without unions, employees at places like Wal-Mart or Target would have no rights or benefits whatsoever. The union movement gave birth to it all (including Social Security and Medicare), and without its influence, places of employment would return to patterns dating back of pre-labor history.

In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution produced a rapid expansion in factories and manufacturing. As workers moved away from agriculture to factories, mines and other hard labor, many faced terrible working conditions: long hours, low pay and health risks. Many children worked in factories, and women and children generally received lower pay than men. The Republican-controlled government did little to limit these injustices, and in the United States, along with much of the industrialized world, labor movements developed which lobbied for better rights and safer conditions.

In the evolution of the Union Movement, labor leaders were imprisoned, beaten, assaulted and even murdered. Mother Jones experienced prison several times, although the only crime she ever committed was defending workers. Thousands were arrested for simply picketing or passing out information pamphlets.

Without a collective bargaining network, union workers would be just as well off flipping burgers at fast-food joints or waiting tables at the greasy spoon.

Think what it’d be like without unions. No Social Security, Medicare, over-time pay, safety regs, weekends, child labor laws, worker protections, workers comp, EEO, etc. Of course, that’s where some would like to take us – back to the bad-ole-days when folk were mostly slaves.

Now imagine what Republicans will do to us in the fall when they take over both houses of Congress and the White House. After all, that’s where we’re heading – thanks to the poor leadership of the Democratic Party. Their elitism is killing us. With such friends, who needs enemies?