Currier and Ives sleigh ride 1853 – Anti-Union Republicans Have a Lot in Common With Chinese Communists

Currier and Ives sleigh ride 1853

Currier and Ives sleigh ride, 1853. The original title for this picture was simply “The road, winter”.

A moon-light sleigh-ride

A moon-light sleigh-ride. While not in color I thought this was a beautiful rendering of a sleigh ride. It was originally published by Wellstood, W., & Co. as just a decorative art print. The exact date is unknown, though pro baby around the turn of the 20th century. Wellstood published some other art prints in a similar style in the 1890s.

The far Right has been demagoguing unions for decades. Back in the 1910s and 20s, there was a socialist element within some union organizing. part of America’s heritage. We’re talking about the era of the Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York, where unsafe working conditions -locked doors and exits – 146 garment workers burned to death. Strong oppression tends to inflame strong reactions. For the most part American unions have never advocated socialism, and certainly not communism. The conservative movement likes to use accusations of associations with the far Left as a gudgeon. In the real world the far Left has hated unions. Unions interfere with the power of the state. Hitler took away union powers and Stalin made them powerless – in the old Soviet Union they existed in name only (Stalinist Laws to Tighten “Labor Discipline,” 1938-1940). While the Right’s second favorite history hack Jonah Goldberg tried to meld communism, fascism and liberalism all into one political movement and failed miserably, it certainly can be said that the far Right and the far Left are two forms of totalitarianism, or in some cases, at least authoritarianism.Thus there are parallels between conservatism’s hatred of unions – the average worker having any self empowerment and authoritarianism. The Lansing-Beijing connection

“China has a problem: rising inequality. The gap between profits and wages is soaring. Although elements of the government have sought to boost workers’ incomes, they have been thwarted by major companies and banks “that don’t want to give more profit to the country and let the government distribute it,” Qi Jingmei, a research fellow for a government think tank, told the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, if China permitted the establishment of unions, wages would rise. But for fundamentally political reasons — independent unions would undermine the Communist Party’s authority — unions are out of the question.

Meanwhile, the United States also has a problem of a rising gap between profits and wages. The stagnation of wages has become an accepted fact across the political spectrum; conservative columnists such as Michael Gerson and David Brooks have acknowledged that workers’ incomes seem to be stuck.

What conservatives haven’t acknowledged, and what even most liberal commentators fail to appreciate, is how central the collapse of collective bargaining is to American workers’ inability to win themselves a raise. Yes, globalizing and mechanizing jobs has cut into the livelihoods of millions of U.S. workers, but that is far from the whole story. Roughly 100 million of the nation’s 143 million employed workers have jobs that can’t be shipped abroad, that aren’t in competition with steel workers in Sao Paolo or iPod assemblers in Shenzhen. Sales clerks, waiters, librarians and carpenters all utilize technology in their jobs, but not to the point that they’ve become dispensable.

Yet while they can’t be dispensed with, neither can they bargain for a raise. Today fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are union members. That figure may shrink a little more with new “right to work” laws in Michigan — the propagandistic term for statutes that allow workers to benefit from union contracts without having to pay union dues.Defenders of right-to-work laws argue that they improve a state’s economy by creating more jobs. But an exhaustive study by economist Lonnie K. Stevans of Hofstra University found that states that have enacted such laws reported no increase in business start-ups or rates of employment. Wages and personal income are lower in those states than in those without such laws, Stevans concluded, though proprietors’ incomes are higher. In short, right-to-work laws simply redistribute income from workers to owners.” ( as many of you probably already know, WordPress has been buggy for some time now – thus some strange things like lack of block quotes)

As Harold Myerson notes and its certainly obvious to the radical Right, this union busting is not about helping anyone get a job, better pay or even about helping businesses. It is about undermining one of the major organizing platforms of the Democratic Party. While Republicans do not have anything like 100% support from police or firefighters unions, they generally can expect a fair amount of support from those groups ( who knows why – another example of people voting against their rational self interests). It appears then that police and firefighters unions escaped the Republican axe in Michigan. Republicans did not go after those unions ( they represent only about 2% of union membership in Michigan), partly for obvious  political reasons and partly because they would have had a protracted battle changing the state’s constitution.

One police captain told a reporter that he though what Republicans were doing to labor unions was wrong. Conservatives are pulling out the usual arsenal of talking heads and propaganda to win the national debate. Myths And Facts About “Right-To-Work” Laws

“On Fox, Dobbs And Mallory Factor Describe States Without Right-To-Work Laws As “Forced-Union” States. During the December 10 edition of Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs and his guest, anti-union activist Mallory Factor, were highly critical of states that do not have right-to-work laws, repeatedly calling them “forced-union” states. Graphic from the show:

[Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 12/10/12]
FACT: Workers In States Without Right-To-Work Laws Are Not Forced Into Unions

Economist Dean Baker: “Workers At Any Workplace Always Have The Option As To Whether Or Not To Join A Union.” In a 2011 post for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, economist Dean Baker pointed out that workers always have a choice whether to work for a union, whether or not their state has passed right-to-work laws:

“Right to work” is a great name from the standpoint of proponents, just like the term “death tax” is effective for opponents of the estate tax, but it has nothing to do with the issue at hand. It is widely believed that in the absence of right-to-work laws workers can be forced to join a union. This is not true. Workers at any workplace always have the option as to whether or not to join a union.

Right-to-work laws prohibit contracts that require that all the workers who benefit from union representation to pay for union representation. In states without right-to-work laws unions often sign contracts that require that all the workers in a bargaining unit pay a representation fee to the union that represents the bargaining unit. [Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2/28/11]

Maine Center For Economic Policy: “Right-To-Work Laws Are Essentially Unfair” And “Not Needed To Protect Nonunion Workers.” The Maine Center for Economic Policy similarly found that right-to-work laws are not fair because nonunion employees in a unionized workplace would have a “free ride” and the laws are “not needed to protect nonunion workers” because federal laws already protect workers from being forced into joining a union:

Right-to-work laws are essentially unfair. If Maine passed a right-to-work law, nonunion employees in a unionized workplace would have a “free ride.” They would receive the benefits of union representation, in terms of job protections, wages and benefits, without paying for any of the costs.

[…]

A right-to-work law is not needed to protect nonunion workers. Several federal laws already protect the rights of nonunion employees in unionized workplaces, such as the NLRB vs. General Motors Supreme Court decision in 1963, and the Communication Workers vs. Beck decision of 1988. Under federal labor law, workers cannot be legally required to join a union as part of a collective bargaining contract. [Maine Center for Economic Policy, 2/19/11]

Center For American Progress: “Right-To-Work Has Nothing To Do With People Being Forced To Be Union Members.” The Center for American Progress report titled “Right-to-Work 101″ explained that federal laws already guarantee that no worker can be forced to join a union…”

Some anti-worker conservatives will claim the fee, where a worker benefits from a labor contract, is the same thing as being forced to join. “In states where the law exists, “right-to-work” makes it illegal for workers and employers to negotiate a contract requiring everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay their fair share of the costs of administering it. Right-to-work has nothing to do with people being forced to be union members.

Federal law already guarantees that no one can be forced to be a member of a union, or to pay any amount of dues or fees to a political or social cause they don’t support. What right-to-work laws do is allow some workers to receive a free ride, getting the advantages of a union contract — such as higher wages and benefits and protection against arbitrary discipline — without paying any fee associated with negotiating on these matters.

That’s because the union must represent all workers with the same due diligence regardless of whether they join the union or pay it dues or other fees and a union contract must cover all workers, again regardless of their membership in or financial support for the union. In states without right-to-work laws, workers covered by a union contract can refuse union membership and pay a fee covering only the costs of workplace bargaining rather than the full cost of dues. [Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2/2/12]”

Not to put a gloss on a law that is clearly terrible, not just for unions, but non-union employees that benefit from being in the same industry as union workers (non-union auto workers in the U.S. make almost as much as union workers because of the upward pressure unions put on wages. Why work for say a non-union Toyota plant for lousy wages when you could work for union wages at a Ford plant). But I think this going after workers and their unions is going to backfire the same way that the conservative movement’s attack on women’s rights backfired. Most of the American public think issues like access to contraception was a settled issue. Access to health that was was equal to mens was a settled issue. That what constituted rape as opposed to Todd Akin’s “forceable rape” was a settled issue. When conservatives decided to shake that hornets nest of issues, the public went to the polls in November, fired up about the attack on basic rights of individual citizens.

Since Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and his conservative co-conspirators the right to mug workers law into affect there have been protests. What does the Right do, They try to provoke labor protesters into fights. And blame unions for any violence or property damage. Things have not changed much since the days of the Colorado Labor wars when mine owners sent the National Guard and Pinkerton agents ( paid thugs) to attack labor union members.

Historian J. Bernard Hogg, who wrote “Public Reaction to Pinkertonism and the Labor Question,” observed:

Much of the hard feeling toward the Pinkertons was engendered by the fact that not infrequently detectives worked their way into high positions in the union and then revealed the intentions of the organization to the employer.[118]

A second and similar function of the detective was to work his way into the union during strikes. From this advantageous position information could be secured against the leaders; and if arrest and conviction followed, the strike would be broken…

A detective will join the ranks of the strikers and at once become an ardent champion of their cause. He is next found committing an aggravated assault upon some man or woman who has remained at work, thereby bringing down upon the heads of the officers and members of the assembly or union directly interested, the condemnation of all honest people, and aiding very materially to demoralize the organization and break their ranks. He is always on hand in the strikers’ meeting to introduce some extremely radical measure to burn the mill or wreck a train, and when the meeting has adjourned he is ever ready to furnish the Associated Press with a full account of the proposed action, and the country is told that a “prominent and highly respected member” of the strikers’ organization has just revealed a most daring plot to destroy life and property, but dare not become known in connection with the exposure for fear of his life![119]

There is a new version of this going on in Michigan. The Koch brothers have agents there provoking violence and pointing fingers at the unions. In one scuffle the union protesters pulled back one member who got a little out of control. A collapsed tent occupied by the Koch agents seems to be the Right’s big gotcha. Only it not clear how the tent came down.

 

Some of the nation’s leading executives drop opposition to boosting taxes on wealthiest Americans. How good of them not to fight against that unreasonable 3% increase.

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