Friday, September 07, 2007

Union Busting USA

As union membership in the United States declines, support for unions continues to rise. A recent Gallup Poll shows that although union membership has declined to 12% of the working population in the US, 60% of Americans support unions and would join one given the chance (Unions garner public approval, Randolf Heaster, Kansas City Star).

Although a paradox to the capitalist press, it seems quite obvious why this is so. More people than at any time in the past 35 years need unions, but aggressively anti-union tactics in the private sector have taken away or suppressed worker's rights to organize. This process has been greatly assisted by a mass media which is extremely hostile to organized labor across the board (newspapers, magazines, television, radio and movies). Finally, the linking of liberal and Democratic Party causes to organized labor has made labor's political agenda subservient to these other forces.

The private sector has a low 7.4% of workers organized (compared with 36.2% in the public sector). This is a direct result of the private sector routinely breaking labor laws, using intimidation tactics and firings, and all with a blind eye from the so-called Department of Labor - more of a joke than ever under the Bush administration.

From an article by Cosmo Garvin in Union Review:
As a rule, they don't shoot workers in the fields and at the loading docks anymore [as long as they are white Americans, workers in the US and throughout Latin America are frequently beaten, forced to live in labor camps, held in slave-like conditions, and even murdered - RiR]. This Labor Day, we can all be thankful for that. But trying to form a union can make your life miserable still.

Just ask Gene Esparza, a forklift driver who’s been with Blue Diamond, the international almond exporter headquartered here in downtown Sacramento, since 1969. That’s 38 years. Esparza makes $15.45 an hour, and he pays $500 a month for health insurance for himself, his wife and his two kids.

Esparza is among the workers trying to organize a union at Blue Diamond. “We’re not trying to hurt the company,” he says, “but I’ve got a family to raise. My kids want milk in their cereal. I need to put gas in the car.” He said he hadn’t gotten a raise for 15 years, until the International Longshore and Warehouse Union started helping workers organize a union in 2004. For Esparza and other plant workers, unionization is a no-brainer. But the campaign has been bitter.

The company sends out regular anti-union memos and makes attendance to meetings with supervisors about the union mandatory. Bosses constantly dog workers to make sure they aren’t talking about union business, Esparza claims. “I’ve had bosses come up to me and ask me who I was talking to, how many minutes I was talking to them for. Every time that happens I whip out my little notebook and I say 'I feel you are harassing me right now.’

“There are a lot of people who aren’t very happy. The morale is low. And some people won’t talk to me anymore because they are afraid they are being watched,” Esparza said.

Union Review: Holding All the Cards
With the structural crisis in capital coming to a head over the housing crisis, it is only a matter of time before workers will turn to themselves and form unions to protect their interests.

Its time to fight for union rights now and to break the stranglehold capital has on our work and our lives.

Its time to force the government to enforce its own good labor laws and repeal the bad ones (such as the egregious Taylor Law in New York State, a favorite of Democratic governor Elliot Spitzer).

Its time for a socialist alternative, a true friend of labor, instead of the two-headed capitalist duopoly of the Democrats and Republicans, which has worked tirelessly and brutally to deny the rights of working people for over 150 years.

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