Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Ruling Elites Attack on Organized labor Is Class Warfare

The Ruling Elites Attack on Organized Labor, Is Class Warfare

As AmeriKKKans pause to celebrate Labor Day the last holiday of the Summer before returning to work (those who jobs), school and a sense of regimen, the ruling elites are cranking up their ongoing attacks on organized labor and escalating class warfare in AmeriKKKa. Over the last twenty-five years, corporatist elites and their politician sock puppets really took the offensive undermining the influence of organized labor. A prime example among many is when Reagan decertified the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union (PATCO) and dared organized labor to support the Air Traffic Controllers. “AUGUST 3 marks the 20th anniversary of one of the toughest battles in organized labor’s recent history--the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike in 1981. With his busting of the 17-month strike, Republican President Ronald Reagan sent a message to the labor movement that he and his big business backers were in charge. It was Act One in what would be a decade of unprecedented greed for Corporate America at the expense of U.S. workers. Yet despite their defeat, the 13,000-strong air traffic controllers union demonstrated inspiring militancy, unity and determination--conducting an illegal strike against a popular president with little support from other unions... PATCO was one of the few unions, along with the Air Line Pilots Association, to endorse Reagan in the 1980 presidential election. But when Reagan won the White House in 1980, it was Corporate America, not his union endorsers, that he was eager to prove himself to. While Reagan launched the attack on PATCO, the previous administration of Democrat Jimmy Carter prepared the ground. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under Carter conducted a management campaign of harassment against union controllers. And 12 months before the government’s contract with PATCO was set to expire, Carter formed a ‘Management Strike Contingency Force’ to prepare for a walkout--including the use of scabs.” When air traffic controllers took on Ronald Reagan Lessons of PATCO
The Professional Air Traffic Controllers were a working class union that ironically supported Ronald Reagan in his run for president in 1980. True to his class interests and those of his handlers and supports, Reagan shafted the union when it came time to negotiate a new contract in 1981. “On the first day of the strike on August 3, 85 percent of union controllers went out. More than 6,000 flights out of a daily load of about 14,000 were immediately canceled. Two days later, Reagan fired the striking controllers. During the walkout, the FAA was able to keep air traffic at 70 percent of pre-strike levels, largely thanks to its scabbing operation. But the administration also depended on something controllers hadn’t anticipated--total disregard for public safety. According to the union, 481 near misses were reported in the first year of the strike--compared to 10 reported in the 10 years before the walkout. The Reagan administration used everything in its arsenal to teach PATCO--and every other union--a lesson. Militants were arrested, jailed and fined. Some PATCO members with federal mortgages lost their homes. Others were denied when they tried to adopt children. The union was fined millions of dollars, and its $3.5 million strike fund was frozen. Eventually, the government succeeded in decertifying PATCO.” When air traffic controllers took on Ronald Reagan Lessons of PATCO
What Reagan started subsequent administrations escalated, even Democratic administrations. “The Clinton administration's new budget was taking more money from ordinary people, in the form of both a very regressive tax hike and a cut in social services, and handing it back over to the corporations. The Clinton administration was picking up where the Reagan-Bush administrations had left off. It should be mentioned that this budget package was a Democratic Party production from beginning to end. Since the Republicans were a minority in Congress, they had the luxury of appearing to oppose the unpopular measures, and no Republicans voted for it. The Senate passed the legislation only after Al Gore, as Vice President, cast the deciding vote. With this legislation behind him, Clinton then put Al Gore in charge of a new commission called Reinventing Government (REGO), which they claimed would make government operations more efficient and save the taxpayer money. In fact, REGO was set up to do what bosses in the private sector had been doing: downsize the work force, either through speed-up or contracting out the work to companies that paid lower wages and benefits. Under Gore's Reinventing Government commission, over 350,000 government jobs were cut. One union, the American Federation of Government Employees, lost 100,000 members. But it didn't ‘save’ ordinary taxpayers one cent in their tax bills.
Finally, it should be noted that the Clinton administration and Democratic Congress broke one of the Democrats' main campaign promises to organized labor by failing to pass even a weak and watered down version of an anti-permanent striker replacement bill. But the Clinton administration did fire off a warning shot at the union apparatuses. From the moment Clinton took office, his Justice Department had supported a Virginia judge's effort to impose a 60-million-dollar fine, the highest ever, on the United Mineworkers union (UMWA) for a grueling seven-month strike carried out by 17,000 coal miners against Pittston Coal in 1989. Pittston itself had agreed to drop the fine as part of its strike settlement with the union. But this did not daunt the Justice Department, which sent its lawyers in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to argue for imposing the fine. Even the conservative Supreme Court ruled against the Virginia judge and the Justice Department, throwing the fine out. But obviously, the Clinton administration used this case as a warning to union officials of what they could expect in the event of other hard-fought battles.
In the 1996 election, the AFL-CIO's support of the Clinton-Gore ticket proved decisive in their victory over the Republicans. But it didn't take long for Clinton to show what this effort had earned the unions. In 1997, he carried out two big attacks against organized labor. In February 1997, the Clinton administration invoked the Railway Labor Act, the same act he had used against the railroad unions the year before, to stop the pilots at American Airlines from going on strike. This was the first time in 30 years a president had invoked that act against airline employees. Breaking the pilots' strike set a precedent throughout the airline industry. It helped to hold in check the employees at other airlines who were pushing to recoup years of concessions and takeaways now that the airline industry was generating big profits. In another confrontation with organized labor, the Clinton administration took on the Teamsters after they organized a successful strike at UPS (United Parcel Service) in August 1997. The UPS strike was a little different than other strikes of the period. Not only had it been somewhat better organized, but it also managed to bring out a bigger proportion of the rank-and-file. Since some of its demands focused on curtailing the use of temporary and part-time workers, it also raised the general problem of fighting against the growing use of low-wage labor. Thus, it had taken on a significance that went beyond the fight at UPS. The fact that the UPS strike ended with a settlement somewhat favorable to the workers seemed to be a small breakthrough, and it raised the possibility that other workers might be encouraged to carry out strikes of their own. First and foremost, the Teamsters themselves had two big nationwide contracts coming up, the Teamsters Master Freight Agreement and the Car Haulers. But three days after the UPS settlement, with the support of the Clinton Justice Department, the government monitor in charge of overseeing the Teamsters announced that she was invalidating the election of the Teamster president, Ron Carey, who had led the UPS strike, under charges of corruption. The elections in question had taken place eight months before but the government monitor discovered corruption only after the Teamsters at UPS went on strike and won! Carey was not only removed from office, but eventually barred from running for office again and then even from membership in the Teamsters.” USA - The Clinton Legacy - Eight Years of Attacks Against the Working Class and Poor
Bill Clinton was able to be elected using a revamped “Southern Strategy” crafted by right wingers (who called themselves “Centrists” ) in the Democratic Leadership Committee. They essentially tricked the old line, core constituency of the Democratic Party: organized labor, civil rights groups, “progressives”, the women’s and homosexual rights movements into believing they were in their corner when in actuality except for universal health care, the Clinton’s had a right wing agenda that was the antithesis of their core constituency’s. As a result, organized labor has seen a steady decline in membership and influence since the Reagan years. “U.S. union membership rolls have slipped to the lowest point in nearly a century. Only 8% of the private sector work force today is unionized. The loss of union jobs is far out-pacing the modest membership gains from newly organized workplaces. Past union wage, benefit and workplace regulatory gains are being drastically eroded by a relentless offensive of unchecked employer concession demands. Organized labor wins few political victories and has only marginal impact on public policy... In 1981, when U.S. President Ronald Reagan fired all the nation's striking Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO), one well-known union leader was quoted to the effect that ‘maybe the leaders of that union really didn't know how to conduct themselves in collective bargaining.’ And, in spite of this most openly provocative and intentional act against workers, the leaders of American labor sat on their hands as the bell tolled ominously across the land. Over the past twenty-five years, workers have either witnessed or been directly on the receiving end of a mind-numbing series of defeats in high-profile contract struggles. Each defeat only added to the collective rise of cynicism and reduced expectation across the nation's entire workforce. The rare victory might shine briefly like a firefly in the night but then lionize into a black hole of bureaucratic complacency as the next round of defeats rolled in.” U.S. Labor in Crisis: The Current Internal Debate and the Role of Democracy in Its Revitalization by Jerry Tucker
Celebrating Labor Day has become a cruel joke. The ruling elites are off somewhere laughing themselves silly watching an ignorant public lionize the triumph of organized labor knowing full well US unions are on life support and they (the elites) are about to pull the plug. Not only is organized labor about to be wiped out so is the US working/ middle class. Watching folk celebrate “Labor Day” is like watching people reshuffle the deck chairs on a sinking ship already listing precariously in the ocean thinking that will improve their situation. Organized labor is not organized, it disjointed and impotent. They can’t even save themselves as unions let alone save jobs, save their benefits or improve working conditions. By failing to support PATCO in 1981, organized labor sowed the seeds of their own destruction. “UNION LEADERS had a chance to show what solidarity was all about. But they passed it by. AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland denounced Reagan’s attack on PATCO. But he also sent a letter to AFL-CIO affiliates, discouraging them from taking any type of strike action in solidarity...William Winpisinger, president of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and a self-described ‘socialist,’ could have dealt a serious blow to Reagan. If IAM members who serviced the planes had walked out, airports across the country would have been shut down. But Winpisinger refused to call out IAM members, citing the IAM’s no-strike clause with the airlines. Other union leaders never mobilized the solidarity that they could have--with a few saying that PATCO got its just desserts for supporting Reagan.” Lessons of PATCO.
For the corporatist fascists, breaking PATCO was just the beginning. It was merely a spoke in the larger wheel of class warfare and union leadership failed to grasp its’ significance. So today the power elites are much further along in their agenda. The only good thing about celebrating Labor Day is, maybe a few people will actually become conscious and energized and use it as a launching pad to resurrect a moribund union movement. Maybe they will be able to revive its legacy of collectivist activism, confrontation and resistance. If not, it will be one more unimportant holiday celebrated by a soulless, cowardly, beaten down and defeated US populous.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home