No fight in politics or culture is ever completely finished. Even the idea that no human should hold another in chattel slavery is still playing out in our society today. This idea of forever struggling for progress should be the core of anyone’s thinking if they want to label themselves progressive. Sadly, the Organized Labor movement and members seems to have lost this idea, if indeed they ever had it.
"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"
It is easy to see how it happened. Labor and Trade Unions were formed first to combat the abuses of the industrialists. This was a fight for their actual lives as working conditions were so horrific we can hardly imagine them today. When that first fight, to be recognized as more than the machines who ran the machines was won, Labor went on to the second fight, wages and benefits.
This fight was won too. The Ozzie and Harriet middle class of the 1950’s and ‘60’s was created, in large part, by the wages and benefits Labor negotiated out with management. This is where the problem started. As these workers raised families they bought into the American dream, they wanted to better for their children. This is no shock, but what the materialistic, possession focused American dream leads to was bad for Labor.
The workers sent their children to college. They did not want them to work in the factories, they wanted them to be professionals, they wanted them to be managers and owners themselves. This is not true of all of workers, but a great many followed this path and taught it to their children.
Long term this lead to where we are today; Labor is depleted and struggling for relevance. The once pervasive unions are now mere shadows of themselves, with their ability to look out for the worker and bolster the middle class vastly diminished. To me, all of this comes from a failure of our generation to understand what Labor has meant for the workers of America and a failure to renew the best bastion of protection from abuse by management and owners.
This must end. We see it in the bail out of the financial system. The bankers who took unreasonable risks are allowed to keep their bonus structures, they are not held to account for the damage their recklessness has caused and the ones who suffer the most are the workers of America, the ones who make things, who actually generate real profits from real products. Why do these folks suffer? It is because we have allowed the balancing power of Labor to wane.