Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unions Have Helped Us All

History helps ... and that's the problem - too many people today enjoy the benefits of other's labor, and take things now for granted.

The story behind the miners in West Virginia, steel workers in Pgh, auto workers in Detroit (Ford, interestingly enough, understood, because he felt that well-paid workers would buy the cars they build, and he was essentially building cars for the people), and oil-field workers in OK and TX. Unions lifted millions out of poverty, gave them relief when injured, and saw to it that they could earn a living wage, buy a home, and enjoy something of the American Dream.

As some folks say, when the water rises, every boat rises, too.

If unions fail, we will return to what I see here in LA all the time - folks at $10 an hour, no benefits, no safety net, no means of protection against sexual and other forms of harassment.

Without unions, it becomes a vicious food chain, and the folks at the top, of course, rule the roost. This is not what we want for America.

Right now, the Americans who have benefited from the work of the unions think the system is trustworthy, and that owners and Wall Street are fair.

Economic systems that rely on the folks at the top end up in the same place all the time - 2% own everything, and the rest are reduced to a daily grind to put bread on the table.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The American Fairy Tale

Written to a Facebook "friend" who doesn't like unions and who believes that anyone can find and keep the job they want, and never fear dismissal, as long as they work hard.

Here's what I wrote:

For the last 3 1/2 years, I have been involved in union organizing for LAX hotel workers. Good and decent human beings, employed for years, never missing a day, but living on a less than living wage, with shoddy benefits, and maybe no benefits at all. You and I couldn't come close to living on their wages, dealing with insults and humiliation every day, fired if they get sick, fired if they complain, fired if they support a union, fired at will, and they have no recourse. This story is repeated across the Unites States, and would be far worse were it not for unions helping this nation build a strong and prosperous middle class, the backbone of democracy.

Your comments about choice simply don't wash in the world that I see here for thousands of LAX hotel workers and millions around the nation.

Much of what you say feels more like the American fairy tale nourished by sentimental writers and religionists, and, of course, the wealthy and the privileged who have bamboozled millions of Americans into believing that their middle class life is threatened by the very forces that created the middle class life in the first place.

American biz has been dedicated to union-busting. It's a terrible story, to be sure.

I lived in West Virginia and learned there the stories of the mines.

I lived in Pittsburgh, and learned there the stories of the steel mills.

I lived in Detroit, and learned there the stories of the big factories.

Without unions, there would be no middle class, and no choice, and no fairy tales - we would be an oligarchy, not a great nation.

But our greatness has come under attack, not from unions and the middle class, but from the giant corps and the privileged and right-wing religious reactionaries who despise democracy and who hate the middle class for taking too much money out of the system.

I'd like to know more about your values, and how they came to be. You sound like a lone-ranger kind of person - everyone for themselves, and to the winner, goes the spoils. I guess if you're a winner, it's a good world.

Wisconsin Governor Full of Baloney

Says the gov of Wisconsin: "We have to cut the budget. We can't raise taxes; that would cripple the economy even further."

The economy?

For whom?

The top 2%?

This is such a crock of bull, it's hard to describe.

To strip away bargaining rights, to decease benefits that have been hard-won over the years and are wel-deserved, to further jeopardize education (oh, that's right, he doesn't give a damn about that, what with homeschooling and private schools to further the asinine agenda of the far-right), to demean public workers and embarrass the entire state of Wisconsin, is unconscionable ... a shameless display of fiscal insanity furthering the transfer of wealth from the many to the few.

Healthy economies always utilize fair and reasonable taxation to sustain the economy and to insure that maximum numbers of families have access to good jobs and benefits.

Because the  money supply is NOT infinite.

Taxation is a form of regulation that keeps the playing field of life fair for the MAJORITY. Our current insanity is crippling the economy, not because of high taxes, but rather foolishly low taxes on the super-rich and the big companies.

Nations never prosper when the wealthy prosper alone. Nations prosper when the middle class prospers.

The madness of low taxation is just that - a madness, a disease, a great evil, part of a strategy long in the planning and dearly believed by t-baggers who have been fooled by the reactionary forces at the top of the food chain. Current fiscal policies are currently designed to kill off the middle class, bust unions, strip away working-class initiative, diminish hope and transform the nation into an oligarchy.

The GOP and its reactionary forces have been bent on dismantling the American Dream ever since Reagan, the Great Liar, took office and said "Government is the problem."

What a crock.

What a bunch of baloney.

What a pack of lies!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wisconsin Fighting Teacher Unions

The new GOP dictatorship in Wisconsin is seeking to further destroy the middle class by going after the teachers and their hard-won benefits.

Here's a note I recently posted when someone suggested that it was "democracy" that put into place the curent governor and legislators:

It wasn't democracy in action, but fear. Unions have helped millions of people gain a middle-class life, the backbone of real democracy. Your financial situation is the result of conservative, reactionary forces, who despise the middle class, and have convinced people like you that the middle class is your enemy, and you should fight them, and bring them down. But will their downfall make your situation any better? And, yes, I quite agree about taxation - but only because the powerful and the wealthy pay next to nothing, and expect folks like you to pay for everything. The whole thing stinks. So I hope you can truly identify who the "enemies" are - they are not your teachers and their unions, but the powerful and reactionary interests who now have Wisconsin a death-grip, and these big boys and girls really don't like people like you, and are glad to see you doing their dirty work. Join hands with the teachers, and together, you might just make a better world in Wisconsin, where folks like you will enjoy a safer and more prosperous life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wendell Berry on the Economy

"If the Golden Rule were generally observed among us, the economy would not last a week. We have made our false economy a false god, and it has made blasphemy of the truth. So I have met the economy in the road, and am expected to yield it right of way. But I will not get over. My reason is that I am a man, and have a better right to the ground than the economy. The economy is no god for me, for I have had too close a look at its wheels. I have seen it at work in the strip mines and coal camps of Kentucky, and I know that it has no moral limits. It has emptied the country of the independent and the proud, and has crowded the cities with the dependent and the abject. It has always sacrificed the small to the large, the personal to the impersonal, the good to the cheap. It has ridden questionable triumphs over the bodies of small farmers and tradesmen and craftsmen. I see it, still, driving my neighbors off their farms into the factories. I see it teaching my students to give themselves a price before they can give themselves a value. Its principle is to waste and destroy the living substance of the world and the birthright of posterity for a monetary profit that is the most flimsy and useless of human artifacts."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Some thoughts on health care and gov't bureaucracy

Written to a friend:

I appreciate your sentiment ("I'd rather buy my own health insurance). Though I question one idea: "whatever the government runs costs more" ... careful analysis of the big companies in America reveal tons of fraud, cost-overrides, not to mention inflated salaries, and billions going to investors rather than products, research and worker safety and benefits. When it comes down to it, gov't is very efficient, though the sheer size of it boggles the mind.

One of the incredible myths created in America in recent decades is gov't. bureaucracy ... but gov't bureaucracy is kid's play compared to the giant corporations like Bank of America, or Boeing or IBM, and they have no sunshine laws; they operate under the radar screen of public scrutiny. Every day, the newspaper biz section has articles detailing the shady underside of American biz, and it's not a pretty picture. Big biz can build a car, but when it comes to the social network of care, we need gov't.

My friends in Europe are amazed at the waste and fraud in our private sector, and millions of people suffering for want of insurance, or an insurance package with a monstrous deductible.

The danger we face is radical individualism, or isolation from one another, sort of a "I got mine," and while we might express concern for others, we avoid writing the kinds of legislation that translates our concern into the social network of care for one another.

But who would want to pay for their own roads, or be responsible for their own fire and police protection, or an ambulance run, not to mention the military protecting us ... or the national and state parks.

I want my airlines well-regulated, I want roads, and I want good healthcare for my neighbors, across the street and across town, and we'll all be the better for it.

And who knows, when gov't begins to pay the healthcare tab, we might finally see action on all the junk-food we eat, our poor nutrition (especially for children), high-corn syrup, sodium and fat content.

Europeans eat healthier because gov't healthcare keeps far better taps on what's eaten, and promotes healthy diets, and insures that even the poorest have easy access to good nutrition, natal care and healthcare.

There's no heaven on earth, but too many Americans live in a healthcare hell ... and we can do better.

Sorry to be so long-winded Judy, but this is serious stuff for me.

Companies and their low-wage employees

Yesterday, at a meeting about healthcare benefits for low-wage workers in Los Angeles, we learned that companies keep raising the costs, driving low-wage earners to choose between rent and benefits; most choose rent, thus, freeing the company from healthcare costs, adding more to their bottom line. 

At Sky Chef (airline food, and all those fresh-packaged salads and sandwiches at Whole Foods and Trader Joes), a 20-year employee is making $10 an hour, and pays $400 a month for healthcare. As far as I'm concerned, this is criminal! Companies quickly fire anyone who complains, or attempts to organize, so most folks, desperate to keep a job, just shut up and struggle. This is not the America I love! Nor the America any of us want!