What About The Workers?

The Republican assault on the workers of America continues at a blistering pace. The obsession with the already obscenely wealthy dramatically increasing their wealth has taken over the moral center of the Republican Party. The leader of the House of Representatives continues to block a reduction in taxes for the vast majority of Americans to ensure that the rich do not pay more in taxes.

Over the past thirty years, the ordinary worker in America has been decimated by successive waves of trauma, without any respite in their pain. While there are demographic and trade reasons that this is happening, much of the pain incurred by workers has been at the hands of Republicans. For a party that often touts its patriotic ideology, they continue to throw workers under the bus.

The rise of countries like China and India have allowed corporations to outsource their operations, effectively destroying the manufacturing sector in most Western nations, and increasingly white collar jobs in the Information Technology sector. Free trade agreements between countries allow goods produced in poorer countries to flow to wealtheir countries. The working class in the wealthy nations has vanished to a large extent.

After the Gilded Age, a coin penned by Mark Twain to describe the Robber Barons of his day, unions very slowly established themselves in the heartland of America. By using a combination of collective bargaining, strikes, marches, sit ins and slowdowns, unions were able to ensure that they were paid a living wage, that they had benefits to fall back on when times were hard, that they would not die unnecessarily for lack of health insurance.

Due to the hard work of unions leaders and members, workplaces became safer, healthier and workers became proud to work in particular industries. Because of their continued struggle, agencies like OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were established to ensure that workplaces remained safe.

The rise of developing countries has decimated union ranks, along with the manufacturing sector. As manufacturing disappears, union jobs disappear, and the great engine of American wealth and a healthy Middle Class sputters. The manufacturing states around the rust belt, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa have seen declining revenues, declining populations, and a rapidly declining Middle Class.

The unions have traditionally been a strong hold of the Democratic Party, allowing the party to hold their own in elections in otherwise red states. The unions are reliable Democratic voters, a small, but powerful voting block. Republicans want to destroy the Democratic advantage in those states, and even more, they want to destroy the Middle Class in those states and around the country.

The Republican base is mostly wealthy, mostly white, mostly older, and both socially and fiscally conservative. As Republicans took over state houses in the 2010 elections are the Tea Party insurgency, they had ample opportunity to redraw voting districts to their own advantage, since 2010 was the year of the census. To this end, they drew districts that allowed them to overwhelm Democrats, despite the fact that they did not win overwhelming proportions of the vote.

In a state like Michigan, where Republicans duly gerrymandered the vote, they managed to secure a majority in the state house. They already have the governorship. They pushed through a law in the lame duck session, which effectively defangs the unions in that state. Unions may no longer mandate that workers pay union dues. This gives workers the right to refuse to pay union dues. Given the choice, many workers will not pay their dues, which significantly reduces the power of the unions.

These “Right To Work” laws have been an aspiration of Republicans for years. The accomplish a number of items on the conservative wish list. First, they eviscerate the Democratic hold on voting power in those states. Next, they destroy the right of workers to organise and bargain, or negotiate for better wages, better working conditions, and better benefits. Ultimately, this has an effect on the workers who live with lower wages, poor benefits, and unsafe working conditions. Corporations benefit from the labor cost savings, and the reduced cost of having to ship jobs to low income countries.

All this means that executives at these countries, from the CEO on down can reap larger rewards on the backs of hard working Americans. Productivity increases that have been seen over the laswt few years have not accrued to the workes, rather they have gone increasingly to the corporate executives, and to a lesser extent to shareholders.

Politicians on the right, the Republicans benefit because they destroy the Democratic base. They can take over state houses, draw districts in their favor, and effectively shut Democrats out of state government for the next generation.

This tactic is playing out across the country, with state legislatures redrawing districts and implementing harsh anti-worker laws that remove the workers right to negotiate at all. An individual worker just does not have the power to negotiate with a corporate entity.

These tactics are being financed by billionaires like the Koch brothers, who have a vendetta against the working class. They can now install state governments of their choice, and move their indsutries to those states without fear of unions or Democrats getting in the way. They can then pollute the rivers and streams and the air, draw oil and gas from the ground without any oversight. All this without having to pay higher taxes to exploit the people and their land.

When people are not required to pay a fee for some service, they are unliekly to volunteer to pay it. People will not pay taxes if they do not have to , leading to deteriorating schools, roads, bridges, ports, and other public utilities. So it is with union dues. If the union does not receive dues, they cannot finance their operations, or organise their workers. The unions will vanish in those states, and with them goes the economy.

Corporations are not democracies, which is why they detest democratic rights as much as they do. A union is profoundly democratic, and founded on democratic lines. Not every worker likes them, but they all ultimately benefit from them. As Republicans and their corporate financiers destroy the unions, so businesses beome more autocratic, more dictatorial, and workers always suffer. Workers are forced to work longer hours for lower wages under the threat of disciplinary action, or layoffs.

It is only when businesses realise that unless they pay their workers fairly, there will be fewer customers to buy their goods, leading to fewer viable businesses. It is in business interests to ensure workers get a fair wage, decent health care that will increased their productivity, and reasonable benefits. The alternative is a deteriorating economy, and an increasing divide between wealth and worker.

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