Topic started on 11-3-2011 @ 01:05 PM by Sestias
I have been watching with dismay as governor after governor tries to dismantle the rights workers have fought and died for since the beginning of the
twentieth century. In the old days, when workers went on strike the owners of factories, mines and other places of employment would call out the
Pinkertons (a private firm of strong-armed goons) who would assault, shoot and frequently kill the demonstrators. Then they would claim that the
strikers began the violence. I can see Governor Walker doing the same thing; he has already employed private contractors from the firm formerly named
Blackwater (I think now it's called Xe) to guard state and federal public buildings which were previously guarded by state employees. He is
attempting to bring the state of Wisconsin back to the days of the Gilded Age.
For those not familiar with the history of the labor movement, which should be taught in the schools but often is not, here are some rights Americans
now take for granted that unions have achieved through blood, sweat and tears:
1). The weekend. Prior to this factory workers typically worked six-and-a-half days a week, with only Sunday mornings off to go to church. They were
not paid any extra for this. The typical worker labored, came home ate, slept, then began it all again the next morning. There was no concept of
allowing employees "down time" or "family time."
It's true that many employees of large corporations also have twenty-four-hour work days today. The invention of home computers and other mobile
communication devices has had the overall effect of eliminating more and more "free time" as they permit people to conduct business while eating,
showering, shopping, etc. In fact, Americans as a whole are working longer and longer hours rather than less and less, which was the dream of people
in the mid-twentieth-century.
The difference, as I see it, is that the corporate employees are as rule in management and are well compensated for their efforts. Now, people in
minimum wage jobs are also being expected to work longer and longer hours without overtime, especially in non-union states.
2). The concept of overtime pay.
3). The concept of sick days,
4). Paid vacation time.
5). Compensation for those who are injured on the job. In the "old days," people who had hands or arms chopped off in machines or other accidents
while performing their duties, were just fired because they were no longer doing their job up to the employers' expectations. Being unable to
perform manual labor as a means of making a living, these people and their families just became destitute and homeless.
6). The elimination of child labor.
7). Workplace safety requirements
And, of course, the big one that is being fought over now:
9). The right to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, seniority, safety, working conditions and other crucial aspects of one's employment.
Anyone who has tried as an individual to ask for a raise in pay or any other workplace condition or benefit knows that it is extremely difficult to
gain any concessions whatsoever. When employees come to the table as a united group, however, they have much more power.
There is no doubt now that the primary aim of Governor Walker's legislation is to break the backs of the unions. He has claimed it is because of a
budget emergency, but in fact the unions have already conceded to all of his demands for cuts in salary and benefits and he still holds out for
eliminating the right of collective bargaining.
I should also reiterate that, contrary to Walker's propaganda, public sector employees are paid less on average than those in the private sector.
They are certainly not overpaid and never have been.
Now I come to my main point in starting this thread:
These naked power grabs by Republican state governors and legislators are made possible because many on the the left just didn't think President
Obama was far enough left for their liking and so didn't care about any other race and just didn't get out to vote in the midterm elections. It was
a case of "I'll just take my marbles and go home." They didn't care if that allowed Democratic candidates to be defeated at the polls and allowed
a wave of corporate-sponsored tyrants to take over their state governments.
I myself didn't care for some of the people I voted for. In several cases I was just picking the lesser of two evils.
I didn't care for my Democratic Congressman, for example, but he was a lot better than the ultra-reactionary who was running against him.
It was we who sat back and allowed this to happen. That's how it goes when people do not participate in their own democracy.