The last few years have seen some drastic and painful changes in American society. Seemingly every day we are bombarded with headlines detailing the assault on the middle and lower class citizens. The signs of class warfare are evident as Wall Street vampires are pulling the strings of the working poor while the Yes Men on Capitol Hill obscure the truth with falsified justifications, irrelevant posturing, and fear mongering.
Take for example the assault on the unions. One only needs to go back and read some of 20th century America’s greatest literature to understand why the unions that protected the industrial workers that built this country are an integral part of the American way of life.
In the 1930‘s John Steinbeck gave us In Dubious Battle and the Grapes of Wrath, which illustrate the plight of the average american worker, the very men and women whose blood, sweat, and tears worked their way into every molecule of the “breadbasket of the world”. In a land of plenty, vast fortunes were (and still are) made off the direct labor of the people who have the least.
Upton Sinclair gave us The Jungle in 1906, which again documents the primitive working conditions of the poor, and the immigrant and minority communities subjected to the horrors inflicted upon them by corrupt industrialist and indifferent politicians.
Both of these books, as well as many other early american masterpieces, detail the exploitation and suffering of the working class citizens, and how they fought to organize unions to protect their basic rights and dignity. Creating safer working conditions and fair wages for a day’s labor are basic human rights that weren’t always guaranteed, yet seems to be all too often taken for granted.
Tom Shachtman’s recent article, “A Dozen Ways to Eliminate the Middle Class” in the Huffington Post puts it into perspective nicely:
“From the 1930s on, unions have been the principal route out of poverty for tens of millions of Americans. Since 1983, membership has been declining, and is now around 12-13 percent of the workforce. Fewer union members equals fewer people in the middle class.”
It was due to the efforts of the United Auto Worker’s union in the mid 1930’s through 1940’s that the Detroit automotive manufacturing giants finally changed into a more progressive work environment. After many years of battling their way to workers’ rights, this naturally lead to innovations and advancements that resulted in the know-how and capabilities that made Detroit “the Arsenal of Democracy” for Word War II.
With the rapidly changing nature of today’s workforce, due to incremental leaps in technology and the exporting of American jobs overseas, the America way of life is under assault once again. The share holders and CEO’s know that if they want to compete with cheap labor overseas and maximize profits, they have to capitalize on the same exploitive working conditions and low pay that countries like China are profiting from.
In these third world countries there are no unions to ensure that people are not taken advantage of. There are no unions to educate people on their basic human rights. There are no unions to hold the corporations accountable for the safety and welfare of the workers. There are no unions making sure that the corporations are meeting all of their obligations to the works. Their expensive obligations to the workers.
And when the corporations find it advantageous to actually keep some jobs on American soil, they often do as much as possible to reduce the costs of maintaining an effective labor force by any means necessary.
Cutting costs by shifting the burden of healthcare to the already overburdened middle class is a favorite method of cutting costs in the war on the working class. Nickel-ing and-dime-ing workers to death slowly with medical costs is just one tactic companies can get away with when there are no unions around to look out for the workers’ best interest.
Poorly managed retirement plans are another way to wage war upon the middle class. Near zero accountability for mismanagement of employee funds result in people finding themselves near retirement with the rug suddenly pulled out from under them. The CEO’s still get their fat bonus checks. The shareholders still get their dividends. The loyal employee gets to eat a can of Spam on Christmas if they are lucky.
The recent headlines dealing with the battle against the unions in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland, and Ohio are all examples of the tactics for selling out the American Dream. Weakening the powers of collective bargaining opens the door for suppressed wages, stifled creativity, lost productivity and demoralizing the workforce. The American worker becomes a casualty in the race to compete with third world labor in the name of low,low prices.
But even as the government and Wall St conspire together to sellout the people in the name of profits, all hope is not lost. If the politicians we elected don’t honor the will of the people, there is still a very powerful tool in the pocket of the American citizen; the all-mighty dollar.
Your money is the only vote that really matters in this country. Every dollar that you spend on products made in countries that do not honor the rights and dignity of the workers is a vote telling those that profit from this situation that you approve of this. Every time you buy cheaply made products from overseas, especially those made by American owned companies overseas, you are condoning the continuance of these practices. You are also putting money directly into the pockets of the politicians and the political parties that benefit from the support of the companies perpetuating these practices.
What can the average person do to help protect the future of the American worker? Boycotting products from countries and companies that are selling out our friends and families by relying on cheap imported labor. Avoiding the big box stores that utilize abusive practices to keep their employees in a disadvantaged position. Not voting for politicians that don’t put their money where their big mouths are. By choosing to support unions, and even more importantly, by consciously spending your hard earned dollars in your local community you can show the politicians and the corporations where the priorities of the American workers truly are. They will follow the money trail. Why shouldn’t the American worker determine the direction that trail goes in?
- Class Warfare- the New Civil Rights Movement! (ourunionvoices.com)
- The Communist Manifesto, the United States and Labor Unions (lifeexaminations.wordpress.com)
- The American Dream as We Know it Is Obsolete (alternet.org)
- Assault on The Middle Class (socyberty.com)