Labor Day Disappointment

Got my bi-weekly “survey” from the American Civil Liberties Union the other day. As are most of these so-called surveys it is really a “SEND MONEY!” mailing. I have not sent any to the ACLU in many many years. Most people who know me would brand me a “Liberal.” I would take issue with the description. They would find it odd I do not contribute to one of the leading Liberal legal foundation in the country. But I don’t and I have a very rudimentary philosophical disagreement with the ACLU and Liberals generally. Labor Day 2015 pointedly reminds me of the this very fundamental difference.

Forty some years ago I went to work for a labor union. At the time I was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. I admired their efforts on behalf of African-Americans and free speech but over time it occurred to me they totally ignored the most oppressed and intimidated group in the country. The American Working Class! Americans from every race, gender, ethic group, and nationality. Not only does the ACLU ignore them but Liberals in general do. Why I began to ask myself?

And I figured it out – because the ACLU operates on the Liberal individual fetishism of the American legal and cultural system. Individual “rights” over Community rights. A distrust of democracy and majority rule. Unions are communal (fraternal) and operate on the democratic principle of majority rule (50% plus one ). This is not how American law operates. We have a legal system granting corporations (things) “individual rights” — the rights of humans. Corporations carry out irresponsible and destructive actions destroying communities and human lives using their “individual rights.” Billions of dollars of constitutional “free-speech” go to buy politicians.

It is a system in which every labor law is written to weaken the only organizations protecting the working class as a whole – Labor Unions. Economic statistics since 1973 demonstrate this starkly. That was the year Richard M. Nixon’s aggressive anti-union policies took hold at a national level. The year marks a decline in wages, benefits and buying power for workers that has plunged at exactly the same pace as union membership. Case in point – Mississippi is the state with the lowest union membership in the country and the highest poverty rate and lowest standard of living.

After so many years American Labor should have learned a difficult and alarming lesson. Yet they have not. They should have seen long ago the working class needs its own political program separate from the Democratic Party and their own political party. The latest “free-trade-agreement” — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated to be rammed through by the Neo-Liberal Obama Administration and a right-wing Republican Congress — should provide ample evidence labor needs to follow its own political and economic path. Labor has and continues its submissive support for the Democrats without question and getting nothing in return.

Over the years they should have picked their friends more carefully or at least paid more attention to their so-called allies agenda regarding the working class. As an activist in the Democratic Party and a career union staff person I would be hard pressed to find an issue on the national level the Democratic Party has come to labor’s assistance on during the past 45 years. Certainly it has not happened anytime during the Obama Administration.

A possible 2016 Clinton Administration, even with a Democratic Congress, elected with the full support of organized labor, does not promise any change for unions without organized labor’s serious overhaul of their entire structure and political agenda.

Bill Johnston
Tacoma, Wash.
(Johnston is a retired staff organizer of the United Food and Commercial Workers. He is a member of the National Writers Union Pacific Northwest Chapter.)

Editor Replies: With due respect, President Obama appointed a majority on the National Labor Relations Board which, over the heated objections of Republicans and industrialists, in December 2014 issued a long-awaited final rule speeding up the union election process, depriving management of a stall tactic that unions widely claim benefits the employer. In effect, as Politico noted, regional NLRB directors were given broad discretion to rule such litigation unnecessary until an election takes place. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said it comprised “modest but important reforms to the representation election process” that will “help reduce delay in the process and make it easier for workers to vote on forming a union in a timely manner.”

Fox News BS Mountain Didn’t Leave With Stewart

Many Jon Stewart fans were at a loss as to why this comedic Cronkite would leave his show when the country (and certainly the feckless mainstream media) needed him most, with corporate oligarchs striding like titans across a globe tipping toward climate change no-return, and so on. But Sophia McClennen’s article [“Fox News Wore Down Jon Stewart,” 8/15/15 TPP], spotlighting Stewart’s Guardian newspaper quotes, gave valuable insight to the bereaved.

Her point: his one-man Comedy Central stand against Fox News’ Mount Everest of venom and disingenuity had finally made his knees buckle.

This Groucho Marx with newsclips had shamed and upstaged toothless he-said/she-said mainstream reporting for a decade and a-half with the audacity a court jester could render most effectively, but Stewart was no less remarkable as he tossed his stinging darts across a field all but vacated by anything resembling media incisiveness. His media analyst critics can hairsplit as to whether Stewart’s satire somehow created an enabling symbiosis that perversely sustained the unaccountable boobs at Fox, but the fact remains that he and his masked sidekick Stephen Colbert stood essentially alone in their thankless task of Fox News bird dogging for cable TV actually frequented by millions.

But possibly Stewart’s widely stated reason for departure — quality time with family — was still most pertinent. Fox News’ B.S. Mountain (as he gleefully termed it) took no vacations and fed off its own vileness. Like too many overworked Americans, it’s pretty clear Stewart had finally slaved hard enough at the modern muckraking wheel, and even the last honest man could be expected to shoulder that cross only so long. Maybe drawing the line against Fox-induced drudgery was just another shrewd punchline about career proportionality.

But McClennen’s got to be right that from his astute vantage point on the Daily Show bridge Stewart certainly couldn’t have suffered the fools he skewered gladly, as vacuous election cycle gave way to countless mass shootings and back, while he donned industrial strength comedic rubber gloves and did vigilant dirty work for all the rest of us.

That may be why on his last show he did a final heart-to-heart with the audience, warning of just that pervasive American B.S. monolith, be it flagrant or subtle, saying they finally needed to do the nonsense monitoring themselves and occasionally be picqued into venturing a well-placed barb of their own to anybody who’d listen. But in truth he had been brilliantly detailing that blueprint all along. It was much more fun and so much easier to let him do that for us.

Mike Wettstein Jr.
Appleton, Wis.

Ill-Conceived War

Jeb Bush just came out blaming Obama for the success of ISIS in Iraq. Considering that most American now see the Iraqi War as an expensive mistake  bringing it up as a campaign issue may be a little misguided. He claims the withdrawal of American Forces from Iraq resulted in the rise of ISIS. While there may a be a degree of truth to that  he should look a little closer to home and think about his brothers role in the rise of ISIS. It is hard to imagine ISIS having much success in Iraq if Iraq were still ruled by Saddam Hussein. Though most have no love lost for Hussein he nevertheless was a strong force in the region that would have certainly been able to counter ISIS. An ill conceived war such as the Iraq War was bound to change the whole power structure in the region and not necessarily for the better of the region nor for the interests of the United States.

David Schroeder
Farmington, N.M.

Confederate Flag Finally Takes Its Place

Re: “’What, to the Slave, is Your 4th of July?’” by Amy Goodman [8/1/15 TPP], Bree Newsome and James Tyson [who were arrested June 27 for taking down the Confederate flag flying on the South Carolina capitol grounds] are in good company. Those two young people, like Henry David Thoreau, went to jail for proving that acts of civil disobedience to expose their government’s moral turpitude, can often lead to a better society.

As for Gov. Robert Bentley’s order removing all Confederate flags from Alabama’s statehouse grounds, my question is: Why did it take the massacre of nine innocent blacks by a deranged racist before the governor felt justified to finally take action?

That flag is the equivalent of an American swastika. It symbolizes racial bigotry, and is a pustule that blemishes the complexion of our nation’s noble ideals of justice and equality.

Let us hope that from now on, we’ll only see that flag on T-shirts worn by racist bigots.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Bernie Should Stand Up For Socialism

Bernie Sanders likes “Progressive” as a designation of his political outlook, but it is certain to become just as much of a right-wing target as was “Liberal” in Michael Dukakis’ 1988 campaign. Dukaklis’ fatal error was to flee from the word Liberal, insisting it did not apply to him. He would have done far better — would have won, in my opinion — to proudly assert, “Yes, I am a Liberal, and as a Liberal I believe ...” going on to explain the word in such a way that progressive personal beliefs are blended with practical political considerations. Similarly, when Sanders is attacked as a Socialist, he ought to squarely own up to the validity of the charge and at the same time define the word in a way that reflects both his lifetime of humanistic activity and America’s traditions of cooperation. Devising a winning argument for Socialism is of course more difficult than devising one for Liberalism ever was, but however the voting goes, by unapologetically making the effort Sanders will perform the invaluable service of restoring Socialism to a recognized place in the American political spectrum.

Merritt Abrash
New York, N.Y.

Christian Excesses

When I was a child, I attended Sunday School every week in a little Presbyterian church with a circuit-riding preacher where I learned that “God is love” and the Golden Rule to “do onto others.” When I was in high school, I joined a Congregationalist church youth group and sang in the choir. I suppose those facts make me a Christian; but, unlike Connie Schultz in her column, “What a Gay Day for Christians” [8/1/15 TPP], I hesitate to admit it. After all, Christians brought us the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, today’s rabid anti-Muslims and fundamentalist Bible-thumpers who want to keep women at home, preferably pregnant. This is so far from what I learned in Sunday School that now I call myself a Unitarian.

Gayle Voeller
Carmichael, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2015


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