Monday, December 10, 2012


Political cartoon from 1955--era of a different perspective

Michigan is the latest target of, powerful moneyed people who want to explode solidarity--want to wipe from consciousness the idea that employers have responsibilities to their workers, and workers to each other, and both of these, to the whole community.  Walter Reuther, Pope Leo XIII, Cesar Chavez, countless union maids, and so many others are rolling over in their graves.

Michigan has just been voted by its lame duck legislature, a “right to work” state.  The rust belt {insult to injury} is now made the union bust belt—Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and more, the targets.  If they can break the UAW and teachers unions in Michigan of strong labor tradition, they can do it anywhere. 

After many slick operators like Bain Capitol have shipped most of our manufacturing out of the country, then corporate groups like ALEC and the Mackinaw Center cleverly engineer legislation that says we have “the right to work”-- not having to join the union that’s won the right to represent the worker at their workplace.  These think tanks like to say this makes states more likely to draw business.  But on important indicators of a good economy, right-to-work state studies show conflicting, murky results.  Some “job creators” are becoming job devastators.

Soon there will be no more good paying jobs, and no more unions.  Because the “right to work” is really the right to shirk—reject your responsibility to co-workers.  Get the benefits that the union wins in negotiation, but no personal by-in, no shared sacrifice.

Every man and woman for themselves, divide and conquer. The gospel of Ann Rand tries to marginalize the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Unions are disparaged; disunion is celebrated.  I’ve got mine, good luck getting yours.  Selfishness battles shared destiny.

Our grandparents sacrificed to build unions which bargain for the middle class with upper class owners.  We do live in two different worlds.  If you don’t believe so, just try to visit a gated community, join an exclusive club, or fly in a private jet. There doesn’t have to be class warfare, but there surely is class distinction.  The need for mediators to negotiate between bosses and workers should be self-evident.  Yes, there is bad union behavior, just as there’s bad boss behavior, but paying a little attention to the history of organized labor in the USA should convince, that good unions are the foundation for good jobs and productivity.  Many employers now recognize this.  But they didn’t always.

he stories of the Flint Sit Down Strike; Ludlow Massacre; Haymarket Riot 1886 Chicago; 1913 Massacre at Italian Hall, Copper Harbor; the International Ladies Garment Workers Union of NYC; the Grape Boycott--United Farm Workers Union; the Battle of Blair Mountain, WV; and hundreds more—these should be told and retold, to afford an appreciation of how hard it’s been, to give workers a fair wage and common voice in America.  There are certainly some union members, along with the corporate CEO’s, who need to become aware of this history.

At a hospital emergency room seeing patients, shoveling in a mine, hoeing sugar beets, or working the assembly line, all the long day—these teach a lesson.  Having done the first and third of these, I’ve learned something.  Most working people know what’s fair and what’s not, if management sits down and levels with them.  This is the purpose of sensible union activity, to achieve the goals of the company / organization, all contributors at the table.  For the rich especially, a thorough contemplative reading of the Gospel of Luke and his Acts of the Apostles, would be a wise prayerful choice during this troubled, holy, season.
St. Luke the Evangelist was bullish on the responsibility the Rich have for the rest of us.
May we renew our solidarity, deepening its spirituality—our common good binding us all, rich and poor and middle class, together.  

From Sec. 20 Rerum Novarum, 1891, Pope Leo XIII---“Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen's earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing…”

From Economic Justice for All, a pastoral letter of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1986)
“No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably seen in this country, to break existing unions or prevent workers from organizing.”

Another form of rights--that includes everyone--Today

December 10th --  Human Rights Day


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