Monday, September 05, 2011
Thank You, Labor
In which I revisit things I've said before to save myself some labor on Labor Day...
The corporatists have done a great job on the divide and conquer routine. I've seen so many comments online (which may or may not be representative of anything, but I'm a blogger, so whatever) that reflect this: if unions are so great, why aren't more people in them; why do the unions only protest when stuff impacts them; why didn't the public sector unions fight when we private sector folks were getting laid off; etc?
So we're siloed. In a union or not? Private sector or public? Work at a company with good benefits or shitty/no benefits? And we fight for our small piece of the pie instead of fighting to make sure everybody has a decent piece.
We need to defragment ourselves and defragment our social benefits. And that's where unions come in, and eventually get rid of themselves. Unions need to fight as they have been to hold the line against corporatist dilution of our rights and power. And non-union people need to join in that struggle, as we've seen in Madison and elsewhere.
Then we finish the job and move away from reliance on employer benevolence. We all fight united for single-payer so we might benefit from the political entity we incorporated to promote the general welfare, and unions will be no longer necessary--they kept us from succumbing to socialist revolution, and now they can provide a bridge to the next progressive stage before riding off into the sunset.
As Uncle Abe said in his State of the Union message to Congress in 1861
Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation.
We need to stop operating with old assumptions about the relationship between capital and labor. Capital may have lots of dollars and lackeys in government at the moment, but we have the numbers and are starting to show our collective will all around the country. We have it in us to defend what so many people fought and died for, and to make additional gains if we keep the momentum.
I'm not sure if Edward Bellamy (author of Looking Forward) would've been surprised that in 2011 we still aren't a workers' utopia. He can be forgiven for not exactly predicting the future of labor (yet he was uncannily prescient about a lot of interesting technological and societal developments). Even though most of the folks standing up for our rights in WI, IN, OH and all over the US haven't read his book, they are helping realize an important component of Bellamy's vision: The enfranchisement of humanity...may be regarded as a species of second birth of the race.
It's not just a philosophical thing. It's about being able to lead a decent life now and pass opportunity on to our posterity.
Of course we're heading into the campaign cycle, and I'm sure even more than in 2010, these issues will come up because now we're reacting to the extremely anti-labor legislation that's been passed in states less enlightened than Vermont. Here's a bit of what I discussed on Channel 15 last year:
Anyway, on this day we need to remember and thank the veterans of class wars from ages not too long past for giving everybody, not just union members, the better working conditions we take for granted today. And we need to thank hard working folks like the Vermont Workers' Center for all they do to protect our rights.
We're all in this together.
September 5, 2011 | Permalink
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