Sep 8, 2015

September 7, 2015: Mocking Labor Day, Freedom As Powerlessness, Freedom to Starve

“The conservative idea of ‘freedom’ would stand us naked and trembling before our almighty employer as a sinner in the hands of an angry god”

                        From “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

 Igor Volsky, in an essay published on (1), relates that a conservative stink tank protested the “federal Labor Day holiday by staging a work-in on Monday in a gambit to celebrate the ‘freedom to keep your job when you choose not to join a union’”. 

Calling it a ‘Right-to-Work Day,’ Tom McCabe, CEO of Washington State’s Freedom Foundation, announced the event on the organization’s website saying “At the freedom Foundation, we celebrate freedom of choice and transparency—ideals the labor movement has vowed to oppose.  Consequently we’ve chosen to spend our holiday honoring the right-to-work movement instead”.  McCabe then went on to argue “that all problems in society can ‘be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor.”’. (1)

McCabe is a complete idiot.  Nothing in the statement stand up to the harsh scrutiny of broad daylight.  The labor movement has nowhere opposed freedom of choice and transparency.  , Unions are products of elections! , wherein a majority of those at the workplace elect to join a union.  Among the many things McCabe and his minions oppose is the concept of the Closed Shop, in which once a union is formed all employees are required to be members.  This, according the wrong-wing troglodytes, is a violation of a worker’s freedom.  Baloney, it is simple submitting to the results of the popular vote.  You see the capitalist pig hates the democratic process, especially on the shop floor.   Moreover Unions are far more transparent than corporations.  While there have been abuses, the record of organized labor is still a stellar one compared to the record of Corporate America. 

“All problems in society can be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor’?  Are you kidding me?  It wasn’t organized labor that fought minimum wage, environmental protection, ending child labor, resisted the 40 hour work week and health care benefits.  It wasn’t organized labor that fought and is still fighting Social Security and Medicare.  And let’s not mention Civil Rights shall we?  It was Walter Reuther and the United Auto Workers that led the march on Washington and forced the passage of the voting rights act.  The examples are simply too many to mention and the record of organized labor is all too apparent to take this bit of bombast seriously.  The problem is the conservative echo-chamber actually swallows this tripe. 

Current labor and income statistics, as well as the historical record, bear this out.  Volsky had this to say about the of effect so-called “right to work” laws

“But according to research from the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws — which have the impact of weakening unions and lowering union membership — have almost no impact on job growth and actually reduce wages for union and non-union workers by up to $1,500 a year. Workers are also less likely to receive “healthcare or pensions through their jobs” and are hurt on the job with greater frequency. “For instance, the occupational-fatality rate in the construction industry—one of the most hazardous in terms of workplace deaths—is 34 percent higher in right-to-work states than in states without such laws,” David Madland, Director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, notes.

Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, after U.S. marshals killed two men in the ill-fated Pullman Strike, a railroad workers’ boycott against high rent and low pay. Government violence against the labor movement became a major political issue and “in the immediate wake of the strike, legislation was rushed unanimously through both houses of Congress, and the bill arrived on President [Grover] Cleveland’s desk just six days after his troops had broken the Pullman strike.” In the succeeding years, labor unions built political momentum to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, which helped create a federal framework for a shorter workweek, helped end child labor, and worked to negotiate for health coverage plans from employers.

Though unionization rates have been in decline for years, a recent analysis of Census data by the Center for American Progress, found that middle class Americans bring home a larger share of aggregate earnings in states that have high rates of union membership than in those where fewer workers are organized.” (2)

In the name of ‘freedom’ McCabe and his ilk would have us stand naked and alone before your capitalist paymaster, bargaining as ‘equals’.  We are not equals any more than Warren Buffett’s secretary has the same economic and social standing as her employer.  It is an illusion and a carefully crafted one at that, an ideological fiction serving only the interests of the already empowered. 

 In the name of ‘freedom’ McCabe and his ilk are making a mockery of the struggles of working men and women all over this country. ‘Right-to-Work’ is “Right-To-Starve” and represents nothing other than a full throated assault on the rights and power of every working man and woman to have any voice at all over the conditions and terms of employment.  It is “Freedom” in the most Orwellian sense; a hollow mockery of the very concept.  Freedom as chains.  Freedom to fleece and be fleeced. Freedom as powerlessness.  Freedom to starve.


2.     Ibid.


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