Tag Archives: organized labor

Occupy Wall Street: 10 Suggestions for the 99% Manifesto

At long last, after three decades of Reaganomics and Wall Street sociopathology have hollowed out the US economy and shifted an ever-increasing percentage of our nation’s treasure to the coffers of the ruling class (in a redistribution of wealth that would make Robin Hood blush) – the youth who have been handed an empty burlap sack labeled “The American Dream” have taken to the streets to Occupy Wall Street.

And while the GOP and the corporate media pretend to be confused about what these demonstrations are all about, it’s clear to most of us: 99% of Americans are getting screwed by a economic/political system that is rigged in favor of the wealthy, the powerful, and their multinational corporations.

In recent days, the Occupy Wall Street movement has begun to articulate a message, if not a list of demands. Trying to remain inclusive, movement leaders (who spend a lot of time trying to reach small “d” democratic consensus) have largely been content to raise questions and provoke thought and discussion, rather than declare themselves for a specific agenda of legislative and legal solutions to the class warfare being waged against the 99%. The fact that the Occupy Wall Street movement is growing is a sign that their Socratic method is working – even if it confuses Fox & Friends.

Inspired by Occupy Wall Street, I’ve given thought to the questions raised by those young patriots in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park – and have arrived at 10 suggestions for an as-yet-to-be-written Manifesto of the 99%.

1. Greed is not good

Sorry, Gordon Gekko, but you and your ilk have had 30 years to make your case – and you’ve failed. Your supply side rising tide did not lift all boats — only your mega-yachts. The Ayn Rand devotees in the GOP can push that everyone for his own interests, dog-eat-dog mantra all they want – but that dog won’t hunt. It’s time to relegate Greed to its ignominious place among the 7 Deadly Sins.

2. Corporations are not people

Sorry, Justice Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy, but corporations are organizations licensed by the government (We, the People) to transact certain business under the law (again, We the People). In exchange for this license – which carries with it certain benefits and protections — We, the People can set legal limits to what corporations can and can’t do, and that includes making sure that big business can’t corrupt our electoral system by pouring anonymous billions into political advertising campaigns.

3. Fair trade not free trade

NAFTA, CAFTA, I don’t care which Free Trade treaty our government has signed, American workers have gotten the raw end of the deal. As long as Mexican, Chinese and other foreign workers can be paid a pittance compared to the American labor force, and the companies that hire them don’t have to operate under the same standards for worker safety and environmental protection that Americans have fought for a century to establish in this country – then THAT may, indeed, be free trade. But it is trade free of fairness to struggling American labor and the precious, endangered environment we all share. I’d rather see protective tariffs return than continue to see “free trade” agreements send us racing to the bottom.

4. Privatization is not a panacea

 I have one question for those who say the U.S. Post Office should be run like a business – or that the Post Office should be privatized. Is it profitable for the Post Office to pick up a few letters from farmers on remote farms in Iowa – or down in some isolated Appalachian valley? No, it’s not. A for-profit operation would soon decide that delivering a postcard to Granny down in the holler wasn’t worth their time and effort. That’s why the U.S. Post Office can’t be run like business: it’s an egalitarian service to all Americans.

Consider this: Haliburton had a contract to feed our troops in Iraq (something the Army used to do for itself.) There’s an age-old military practice of staggering meal times for smaller groups of soldiers in a combat zone to avoid predictable concentrations of troops that the enemy can exploit. If the bad guys know all our soldiers eat regularly at a certain time – boom! That’s the time to hit us.  But Haliburton decided these staggered times and smaller groups were not cost-effective. It was more profitable to have fewer meal times for larger groups of troops. Thus, on December 21, 2004 — as hundreds of U.S. troops and other personnel crowded into a large mess tent in Mosul for their midday meal – a suicide bomber struck, killing 22 troops and contractors and injuring 69.  How many lives would have been saved if the Pentagon had not privatized the feeding of our troops?

5. The unions make us strong

The 8-hour workday. The 5-day work week. Overtime. The end of child labor. Occupational safety standards. Vacation pay. All of these things we take for granted are part of our nation’s fabric because of blood, sweat and tears shed by organized labor. That’s why the conservatives hate unions. That’s why the corporate elite supports GOP governors who run as moderates – then quickly pivot hard to the right to enact their anti-union agendas. We’ve seen it in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Maine, etc. The right wing may have been successful since the Reagan administration in portraying organized labor as corrupt (sometimes with good reason) and detrimental to free enterprise – but, all in all, the unions make us stronger.

6. Taxes pay for the commons

Rachel Maddow says it all in one of her television commercials. Standing in front of Hoover Dam, she makes the point that no person could have paid to build such a massive public works project, no town could have done it, and no state could have done it: it took a nation to build Hoover Dam. The same is true of the Interstate Highway System we all drive on, the water systems we all drink from, the public schools, the military, and that damned Post Office. Locally, our taxes pay for cops, firefighters and other first responders. Taxes make these institutions and services (collectively “the commons”) possible. Taxes are the cost of a civilized society. Ss Elizabeth Warren has so succinctly pointed out, the wealthy benefit more from the commons than the rest of us – and therefore, should pay a fair share of the taxes.

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you.

 “But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You don’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this because of the work the rest of us did.

 “Now look. You built a factory and turned into something terrific or a great idea — God bless! Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

7. Health care is a human right

Health care is not a commodity and does not work within the capitalist, for-profit, supply and demand economic model. Why not? It’s simple. If I want to buy a car, I have lots of options. I can buy an expensive new car, a low-cost used car, or a “previously owned” car (which is somewhere in the middle). I have lots of different makes and models and dealerships to choose from. And, if I don’t like the price – I can just walk away. Take the bus, carpool, or ride my bike if I need to.

But if your dad drops to the floor suffering a heart attack and the paramedics take him to the nearest emergency room – and he needs emergency bypass surgery – you don’t have a choice. You can’t check out the prices at other hospitals. You must do what’s possible at that moment to save your dad’s life. Likewise, if you have breast cancer, you’re not going to shop for the cheapest treatment — no matter what you’re financial situation is. You must have the most effective course of treatment your doctors recommend, whatever the cost. Capitalist rules don’t apply in health care – which is why all the other industrialized, civilized countries have national non-profit health care systems. Duh.

8. Fossil fuels are so 20th Century

Do I really need to point out that we can’t keep drinking oil? China is getting out front in the solar energy industry while the GOP grandstands on the Solyndra “scandal”. The real scandal for the GOP is that the Obama administration appears willing to act on a policy that generations of politicians on both sides of the aisle have only given lip service: end American dependence on foreign oil. Obama also talks a good game about making the U.S. a leader in Green technology and the solar, wind and geothermal energy sources of the future. Let’s hope it’s not just talk. So far, there are encouraging signs that the President means what he says. (We’ll see what happens with that Keystone XL shale oil pipeline.)

9. Voter ID laws = voter suppression

Voter fraud is not a problem in this country. The statistics make it clear that our democracy is not threatened by voter fraud. However, our democracy is threatened by the new Jim Crow: GOP-sponsored voter ID laws in an increasing number of Republican-controlled states. In order to defend against a non-existent threat, GOP lawmakers are making it harder for older and poorer folk to vote. Why? Because older and poorer folk (especially minorities) tend to vote for Democrats. When you hear the words “voter ID” – it’s all about voter suppression.

10. Jesus was a liberal

Sorry, all you conservative evangelicals at the Value Voters summit, but Jesus was a lefty. He was all for helping the poor and the sick. I don’t remember a single miracle in which Jesus restored a merchant’s business to profitability. In fact, He had some tough words for the rich.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” No ambiguity there. Now, Jesus wasn’t into class warfare. In fact, He wasn’t into war at all. “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I could go on and on. Jesus never uttered a word against homosexuals, He urged us to visit people in prison, and He wanted us to, above all, “Love each other as I have loved you.” Sounds like one of those freaking, bongo-playing hippies in Zuccotti Park. Bless them all.

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Sing Along with Steve: A Protest Song for The Cheddar Revolution!

Another day — and another fine progressive artist rushes to the Madison barricades!

In this case, our good friend, Steve Rashid, a multi-talented musician, composer, recording engineer – and native of Ripon, Wisconsin – combined his skills on behalf of the pro-union protestors in his home state.

The result is a timely and humorous protest song that you can hear by clicking the link below.

Fight On, Wisconsin

And for those who want to sing lustily along – and I assume that’s all of you – here are Steve’s lyrics…


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On, Wisconsin!

Hosni Mubarak, meet Scott Walker. Walker’s got a popular uprising on his hands, too.

A funny thing happened on the way to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s goal of rolling back the hard-earned rights and benefits of his state’s public employee unions. Tens of thousands of citizens began marching in the streets of Madison.

A newly elected Republican, Governor Walker wants his GOP-controlled state legislature to pass a law that forces state workers to pay more for their pensions and health insurance coverage and takes away most of their collective bargaining rights. Ironically, Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to grant public employees collective bargaining rights.

An imperious Governor Walker says there will be no negotiations on his union-busting budget plan. If the legislature doesn’t pass his plan, Walker has threatened massive layoffs and cuts in state services that will cost thousands of jobs.

And in a move that would make Hosni proud, Walker put the National Guard on alert in case state workers strike or rise in protest. The Wisconsin Guard hasn’t been called out in a labor dispute since 1934. (And that situation was deadly.)

On Tuesday, February 15, approximately 15,000 people jammed inside the Capitol building and on the grounds to express their opposition to Walker. The next day, schools in Madison were closed as 40% of the teachers union’s 2,600 members called in sick and joined the growing throng of protestors at the Capitol.

Also on Tuesday, more than a thousand demonstrators gathered outside Governor Walker’s home. The line of protestors was ten blocks long.

Surely, this is all big national news, right?

In recent weeks, our national news media was awash with breathless coverage of the mass demonstrations in Egypt that brought down a dictatorship. That was as it should be. The defiant pro-democracy rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were clearly and importantly newsworthy. So why isn’t it newsworthy when 10,000 Wisconsin citizens gather in the frigid streets of Madison chanting, “This is what Democracy looks like!”

In fact, many of the protesters in Madison recognize similarities between their struggle to maintain their rights and the Egyptians’ battle against an autocratic, oppressive regime. Some protest signs in Wisconsin say things like, “Hosni Walker,” “Don’t Dictate, Negotiate,” and “Dictators Will Fall.”

Our news media should be showing all Americans the sights and sounds of this popular uprising within our own borders. There should be up-close-and-personal feature stories about the local Madison businesses giving free food and coffee to the demonstrators — or police officers buying lunch for protesting state workers. Or the cheers that rose up when a column of hundreds of firefighters from across the state joined the protest, marching to the sound of their bagpipers.

Governor Walker had tried to keep the cops and firefighters out of this fight by exempting them from his regressive new anti-labor law – but Walker’s gambit to divide key groups of Wisconsin’s public employees against each other didn’t work. The President of Madison Fire Fighters Local 311 declared that even if supporting the protest leads to the cops and firemen getting their rights and benefits cut, too – organized labor sticks together.

“Oh you can’t scare me, I’m stickin’ to the union…”

According to all reports, the uniformed cops monitoring the protests are friendly and supportive — and off-duty officers are carrying “Cops for Labor” signs.

Of course, the struggle in Madison isn’t just about public workers’ rights in Wisconsin. It could be a pivotal event for the labor movement in America: a galvanizing moment when working people begin to push back against the 30-year conservative war on organized labor that began when Ronald Reagan broke the PATCO union during the air traffic controller’s strike.

President Obama appears to understand the larger implications of (what I’m calling) the Great Badger Labor Revolt…

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions. And I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.

“They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution. And I think it’s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.”

But where Obama sees “neighbors” and “friends” who “make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution” – right wing gasbag Rush Limbaugh sees only enemies, calling teachers “parasites” and union workers part of an “anti-democracy” movement.”

It’s sad to think that Limbaugh’s ranting may carry farther on the media airwaves than President Obama’s pro-union message.

And why has Governor Walker launched his assault on middle-class jobs and collective bargaining? Walker claims his state is broke — but an independent analysis by the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau projects a net positive balance of $56 million for the state budget at the end of 2011. And a report by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future estimates the cuts in public employees’ pay will cost the state $1.1 billion in reduced economic activity annually – which will lead to the loss of some 9,000 private sector jobs.

Walker’s plan is not about what’s good for Wisconsin.

This trumped-up “budget crisis” is really an extension of the Republican war against workers’ rights that Walker’s fellow GOP governors, like Ohio’s John Kasich and Arizona’s Jan Brewer, are also waging.

But in Wisconsin, Walker is facing a revolt. And that revolt has spread to the legislature itself.

Today, on Thursday February 17, in the midst of heated debate as Walker pressed his GOP majority to hastily ram his budget plan through the legislature — all 14 members of the Senate Democratic caucus walked out — depriving the state Senate the three-fifths majority it needs for a quorum on budgetary issues. Soon afterward, the NBC affiliate in Madison reported that the Democrats left the state entirely.

“I know the whereabouts of not a single Democratic senator,” said Democratic Party communications director Graeme Zielinski Zielinski. “I do not know what latitude they’re on, or know what longitude they’re on. I assume they’re in this hemisphere, I’ll say that.”

GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said that at some point, if necessary, Republicans will call upon the State Patrol to round up the Democratic diaspora and return them to the Senate floor. (And how’s this for nepotism, cronyism, and conflict of interest? The state Senate leader and the Assembly Speaker are brothers — and the new head of the State Patrol is their dad. You just can’t make this stuff up.)

Working people in America are fighting for their survival. This uprising by unions members and citizens of Wisconsin should be a major news story.

We’ll see what kind of play it gets in the corporate-controlled (and thus, anti-union) national media — other than MSNBC.

Will we see Anderson Cooper live from the Capitol Grounds in Madison?

I hope so.

I doubt he’ll have to worry about any Cheese-heads hitting him in the head.

On, Wisconsin!

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“I’m Stickin’ to the Union…”

“If I went to work in a factory, the first thing I would do is join a union.” Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In the mid 20th Century, back in the day when the postwar United States was the preeminent world power, we could boast a robust and growing organized labor movement which improved conditions for working Americans — union and non-union alike — and helped to build the great middle class in this country. But the labor movement – union men and women alike – paid in blood to give generations of their fellow workers a share of the American Dream.

Big Business didn’t just give Americans the 5-day working week, the 8-hour workday, and vacation and overtime pay. The Robber Barons didn’t give up Dickensian child labor without a fight. Do you think you’d have a pension today if your union brothers and sisters hadn’t fought for it? Many brave men and women in the Labor Movement died to win these basic workplace conditions. We take for granted so much of what organized labor earned for us over nearly two centuries of heroic struggle.

But the battle for workers’ rights didn’t end back in the 1930’s and 40’s. There’s been no final victory. Rather, the struggle for economic justice in the workplace is ongoing. And for the past three decades, American workers have been losing what little we’ve gained.

Ever since President Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers strike in the summer of 1981, the right wing has mounted a steady counter-attack against organized labor. In 1983, 20% of U.S. workers were union members. By 2009, only 12% of American workers were unionized. Today, 30 years after Reagan renewed the right wing assault on labor unions, only one in 10 workers are union members. That’s right. Union membership has been cut by half since Reagan took office.

And the anti-union drumbeat continues.

Today, revenue-strapped GOP governors complain that hard-earned public employee pensions are generous boondoggles we can’t afford. Teachers unions are constantly under attack — as though earning about $40 thousand dollars a year for heroically schooling America’s youth (while working most weekends grading papers and spending personal funds for school supplies) is too high a price to pay for an educated electorate. Right wing politicians call out nurses and firefighters as overpaid unionists with luxurious benefit packages. Meanwhile, in the halls of Congress, contemporary union-busters are taking steps to weaken unions and limit American workers’ ability to bargain collectively.

Greedy elitists have been working very hard for the past three decades to give unions a bad name.

The Republicans and their corporate overlords have managed to confuse a shockingly large percentage of blue-collar lunch-bucket working Americans to buy into their anti-union rhetoric – despite the fact that the gap between executive and worker pay has become truly obscene.

In 1965, American CEOs earned 24 times what the average worker in their company took home. By 1978, the CEOs got paid 35 times more than their average employee. That figure rose to 71 times more in 1989. By 2005, CEO pay had risen astronomically.

Blue collar, Joe the Plumber Republicans might be shocked to learn that the average American CEO in 2005 earned 262 times the pay of their average worker. In other words, CEOs earned more in one day than an average worker earned in 52 weeks. And in the last five years, it’s only gotten worse. Today, according to the accounting firm, Towers Perrin, the average CEO is paid 500 times more than the average worker.

And that’s only half the story. Working class fans of conservative supply side economic theory should know: nothing trickled down.

While the top corporate executives were lining their pockets, the wages of working Americans declined in real dollars.

In 1979 the average hourly wage in the U.S. was equal to $15.91 in 2001 dollars. By 1989 it was only $16.63 per hour: a gain of just 7 measly cents a year for the entire Reagan decade. (In case you already forgot: CEO pay during that same period rose from 35 times what workers earned to 71 times what the guy on the line made.)

During the Clinton years, there was a slight up-tick in workers wages. Between 1995 and 2000, the average wage rose to $18.33 per hour, driven in part by higher pay for college-educated workers in the tech and service sectors.

But for the more than 100 million laborers without a college degree, average inflation-adjusted hourly wages at the end of 2000 were less than they were in 1979.

That’s what blue collar Reagan Democrats got for switching their allegiance from a union-friendly party to a union-busting party. Reagan and his corporate cronies waved the flag at hardworking blue collar Americans, puffed them up with pride about that “shining city on a hill”, riled them up about abortion and gay marriage – and then robbed them blind. The right wing is still doing it. And working class people are still falling for it.

The shameless profit-grab at the top of the corporate food chain has taken place while for the past 30 years U.S. worker productivity rose steadily as wages remained flat.

Since Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, American worker productivity has increased by nearly 40%. Yet, I remind you, real hourly wages for workers have declined since Reagan’s inauguration.

So who got the reward from all that increased worker productivity? Who got the big performance bonuses? The CEO’s, upper management and Wall Street middlemen did. (Of course, today’s grease monkey, shipping clerk, loading dock foreman, or self-styled Joe plumber can dream of one day becoming a CEO or stock trader himself himself. Or he can play the lottery.)

Workers have fallen behind while the fat cats stuffed record profits into their bulging pockets. (All the while crying that the unions were making it impossible for their companies to compete.) Yet the corporate elite aren’t satiated with their outsized slice of the economic pie. So, their right wing tools in government are stepping up their attacks on organized labor.

In my own home state of Ohio, newly-elected Republican Governor John Kasich proposes to deny the right of 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers to unionize. He also wants to ban strikes by teachers, much the way some states bar strikes by the police and firefighters.

“If they want to strike, they should be fired,” Mr. Kasich said in a speech. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”

By the way, this is the same Governor Kasich who has complained (rightly) that white-collar state employees are not paid enough to attract the best candidates to public service in Ohio. (In the GOP worldview, what’s good for college educated white-collar workers need not be shared by lowly blue-collar workers. Yet they have the nerve to call Democrats “elitists”.)

The right wing attacks the labor movement to convince blue collar Americans that unions are simply greedy and corrupt. This anti-union calumny is promoted by the GOP and bankrolled by big business execs and Wall Street moneymen whose own greed and corruption was manifest in the final years of the Bush administration. (BTW, it was blue-collar working Americans whose hard-earned payroll and income taxes bailed these A-holes out.)

Of course, there have certainly been some illegal shenanigans now and then in the annals of organized labor. (We still don’t know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.) But that doesn’t change the fact that the union movement in America has been a force for good in this country. And that union men and women paid for what we now take for granted in the workplace with their freedom and their lives.

Listen up, my working class friends who vote Republican: I’m talking to YOU. It’s time for a history lesson. A history, alas, that you can no longer read about in most public school textbooks, thanks to conservative members of your local school board.

April 27, 1825: Carpenters in Boston are the first to strike for a 10-hour workday.

July 1835: Child laborers in the silk mills of Paterson, New Jersey strike so they only have to work an 11-hour day — 6 days a week.

July 1851: Two railroad strikers are shot dead by the state militia in Portage, New York.

January 13, 1874: Unemployed workers demonstrating in NYC’s Tompkins Square Park are attacked by mounted cops who charge into the crowd, beating men, women and children with billy-clubs. There are hundreds of casualties, but the Police Commissioner says, “It was the most glorious sight I ever saw.”

July 14, 1877: The “Battle of the Viaduct” in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Protesting members of the Chicago German Furniture Workers Union are put down by federal troops (recently returned from an Indian massacre) killing 30 workers and wounding more than 100.

September 5, 1882: 30,000 workers march in the first Labor Day parade in New York City.

May 1, 1886: Bay View Tragedy. About 2,000 Polish workers walk off their jobs in Milwaukee in protest of the ten-hour workday. They march through the city, gathering other workers until they are 16,000 strong and gather at Rolling Mills, sleeping in nearby fields. Wisconsin Governor Jeremiah Rusk calls out the state militia, and on May 5th, as the workers chant for an eight-hour workday, the commanding officer of the militia orders his men to shoot into the crowd (some of whom were armed with sticks, bricks, and scythes) killing seven, including a child.

October 4, 1887: The Louisiana Militia, aided by bands of “prominent citizens,” shoot 35 unarmed black sugar workers striking to gain a dollar-per-day wage. They also lynch two strike leaders.

May 11 to July 10, 1894: A nationwide strike against the Pullman Company begins when workers walk off the job after their wages are drastically reduced. On July 5, the 1892 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago is set ablaze, and the mobs begin burning and looting railroad cars and fighting police in the streets. On July 10, 14,000 federal and state troops succeeded in putting down the strike, killing 34 American Railway Union members. Strike leaders, including Eugene Debs, are imprisoned for violating injunctions, causing disintegration of the union.

September 1897: The Lattimer Massacre. 19 unarmed striking coal miners are killed and 36 wounded by a county sheriff’s posse for refusing to disperse near Hazelton, PA.  Most of the victims are shot in the back.

March 25, 1911: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, occupying the top three floors of a ten-story building in New York City, is consumed by fire. 147 people, mostly women and young girls working in sweatshop conditions are killed. Greatly adding to the death toll was the incredible fact that Triangle bosses had locked the factory doors from the outside to keep the ladies from taking breaks.

June 11, 1913: Cops gun down three maritime workers (one of whom is killed) who are striking against the United Fruit Company in New Orleans.

1914: According to the Commission on Industrial Relations, approximately 35,000 workers were killed in industrial accidents and 700,000 workers were injured in the U.S.

April 20, 1914: The “Ludlow Massacre.” In an attempt to force strikers at Colorado’s Ludlow Mine Field to go back to work, company “guards” (hired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and other mine operators) attack a union tent camp with machine guns, then set it afire — killing five men, two women and twevlve children.

January 9, 1915: The famous labor leader Joe Hill is arrested in Salt Lake City and convicted on trumped up murder charges. Despite worldwide protests and two attempts to intervene by President Woodrow Wilson. Hill is later executed. In a letter written shortly before his death, Hill urged his supporters, “Don’t mourn – organize!”

August 19, 1916: Strikebreakers attack picketing strikers in Everett, Washington, while local police refuse to intervene.

Three days later, 22 union men attempting to speak out are arrested. On October 30, vigilantes force union speakers to run a gauntlet, whipping, tripping and kicking them, and impaling them against a spiked cattle guard at the end of the gauntlet.

In response, the union calls for a meeting on November 5 – but when the union men arrive, they are fired upon. Seven people are killed in The Everett Massacre (also known as Bloody Sunday) and 50 are wounded. An unknown number wind up missing.

March 15, 1917: The Supreme Court approves the Eight-Hour Act under the threat of a national railway strike.

August 26, 1919: United Mine Worker organizer Fannie Sellins is gunned down by mining company goons.

March 7, 1932: Police kill striking workers at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan plant.

October 10, 1933: 18,000 cotton workers go on strike in Pixley, California. Four are killed before the workers win a pay hike.

1934: During the Electric Auto-Lite Strike in Toledo, Ohio, 1,300 National Guardsmen including three machine gun companies are called in to break up as many as 10,000 strikers and protesters. Two strikers are killed and over two hundred wounded.

September 1-22, 1934: A strike in Woonsocket, Rhode Island results in the deaths of three workers. Over 420,000 workers ultimately go on strike.

1935: The National Labor Relations Act is passed. It guarantees covered workers the right to organize and join labor movements, to choose representatives bargain collectively, and to strike.

May 30, 1937: Police kill 10 and wound 30 during the “Memorial Day Massacre” at the Republic Steel plant in Chicago.

June 25, 1938: The Wages and Hours Act passes, banning child labor and setting the 40-hour work week. It establishes minimum wages and maximum hours for all workers engaged in covered “interstate commerce.”

That’s the basic progressive history of labor unions before Ronald Reagan (himself a former Screen Actors Guild union president) began his successful counter-attack against organized labor.

The fact is that unions have a positive impact on the wages and working conditions of unionized and non-unionized workers alike.

Unions raise the pay of unionized workers by roughly 20% — and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by 28%. Plus, unions raise wages more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers — and more for workers who do not have a college degree. Unions force nonunion employers to follow suit. Organized labor’s impact on total nonunion wages is almost as big as its impact on union wages.

Wake up, working class Americans! Conservative GOP anti-union politicians are not on your side. Organized labor is on your side.

As Woody Guthrie sang, “You can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union!”

Here’s the legendary Pete Seeger (who I’ve had the honor to interview and see perform) with Woody’s son, Arlo Guthrie singing “Union Maid”.

And finally, here’s old Pete throwing down the gauntlet. “Which Side Are You On?”

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