Originally written on February 19, 2011, inspired by the Wisconsin and Ohio state governments’ attacks on Unions and Labor and published nationally.
The battle of those who don’t have much left against those that want it all seems to be coming, to some, as a surprise. The super wealthy, super elites have manipulated the masses with thought control methods I first was exposed to in “1984,” and have done it well enough to to turn good people against each other: by color, religion, birth nation, geography, sexual orientation, age, or any other wedge they can drive and exploit. The one they are using this time around is the perceived abuse of the power of organized Labor and the meme that the union workers are getting more than they deserve.
I work in a large factory doing heavy fabrication, making primarily locomotives. I have what most would consider a great job when you look at the benefits and wages but it is hard, dangerous work. Last year, a man was killed when a 10,000 pound sub-assembly was knocked over on him. He left behind a widow and children. Most years, we don’t have a fatal accident; just your standard maiming and other permanently disabling factory injuries. But still, a good job, if you last long enough to retire healthy.
In my small town, there is some kind of manufacturers and business association (MBA). These owners have used their influence and power to set the wages paid in the area for the different skills and levels of skill, and set them very low. I work for a large multinational that is not part of this collusion, and I am represented by a tough union. My union sisters and brothers are the ones that ‘occupied’ the window factory in Chicago a couple of years ago, and again a couple of months ago. So, my wages are significantly higher than the local market typically pays.
When we get a contract with our company, they make sure to give the local newspaper, who is a big player in this association of these manufacturers and businesses, a rough idea of what our wages and benefits are worth. All I hear from people earning 8 to 10 dollars an hour is complaint after complaint of how much we greedy union people are overpaid and under worked. “You guys get paid too much!”
This from the guy next to me drinking draft beer when the specials are over to save a little cash. Of course, when you work a couple of full time jobs, as does your spouse, there is not a lot of time available to spend at a bar. Most of the workers in my town are in that situation. If they are able to find work. But that is another story…
Being a “shop rat,” my reply is usually phrased something like “No, you ignorant bastard, you don’t make e-fucking-nough.” Then I start explaining about how a couple has to each work multiple jobs just to have enough for a car that is only a decade or two old when they buy it. About how much of their pay ends up going for child care because they work too much to be able to be home enough to cover the daycare themselves. About how the landlords in the area (also members of the MBA) have colluded to keep rents as high as possible. The list of how hard they have to work to barely scrape by is long and quite disheartening. And I know that list as well as they do, because I was thirty before I got a good Union job.
I explain how depressed the local wages would be if we did not force my company to give us a share of the pie larger than they would like. I explain that if we did not get as much as we did, we would be paying less in taxes, and everybody at the bottom would have to pay more. And then I start on about how much the owners of all these businesses are making on the sweat of the workers’ brow.
Or getting from the workers’ local government to subsidize that capitalist venture with tax breaks and exemptions of all types. The company I work for paid no federal income tax for the last four years, but wanted us to call our legislators to get them to approve this $450 million dollar alternate engine made by us for a military jet, and built in this really orange guy’s (John Boehner) congressional district.
Too many times, by then I am speaking to no one. Because they don’t need to hear my “lies” about the imbalance in the system. Or because they know that the big three networks are all way too liberal, and I asked them to give me examples to prove what they claim, and it proves I have a closed mind to their “truth.” Or because I sound like a socialist for disagreeing with them about how bad healthcare in Canada and England is.
If they are still hanging in there and haven’t hit me yet, I explain how the few at the top, like the Koch brothers and those belonging to ALEC, are just pushing us into division and strife, so we “ignore the man behind the curtain.” But the whole goal of this rushing the workers to the bottom is to create a corporatist feudalism. A dystopic society where those at the top don’t have enough until we have none.
We seem to have a nexus of events coming that could open some eyes of those that are most blind to their own condition. The attack on unions by the Republicans may be (I hope with all my being) a petard to hoist them by. But we need to get people in the streets and government offices to make this happen. So don’t just go alone to show your support, take some people with you. The wealthy have the money to spread their BS, but we have the people as our prime resource.
United Electrical Workers Union, Local 506 (UE506)