The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
I had promised myself that I would stop interjecting political views into this forum but watching the events of the last week taking place in Wisconsin and across this country has forced me to break that promise.
Labor is, and has been for some time, under attack from the so-called captains of industry and their minions in government and that is truly a tragic event for the working class of this country, many of whom have no idea of the history behind the labor movement. Most don’t realize that many of the things they take for granted in the workplace , like a 40 hour workweek and minimum wages, are there because of workers from prior generations banding together to demand tolerable working conditions and a living wage. They can’t see that unions have raised the boats of all workers, union and non-union.
This nation has been seeing a decline in the middle class for some time now, with there now being the greatest disparity in wealth between the upper and lower classes since the years just before the Great Depression. It has been shown historically that we prosper as a whole when the workers of this country prosper and the workers are under attack now.
We have been convinced in the great echo chamber of the media controlled by powerful corporations that taxcuts and bailouts for corporations (the faceless captains of industry) are acceptable and necessary, costing us countless billions of dollars. It is forbidden to ask corporations making billions of dollars in profits to pay their true tax liabilities without concessions but to demand that the rights and benefits of those with the least power, the workers, be sacrificed is acceptable.
Those in power, and those who kowtow to them, will always seek more and more from those they hold power over and will use all the means within their reach to hold on to this staus quo. As King said, the prosperity of the middle class was not given freely by the captains of industry. They were forced in to it and the nation as a whole, the powerful included, benefitted.
There’s so much to say on this subject, so many words to spew out about the value of the working class and how we must lift it back to its feet if we ever hope to once again see widespread prosperity in this country. Too many for this simple blog. This is not a small fight in Wisconsin. It affects all America and should not be taken lightly. Unions have long been demonized and, admittedly, have had some problems. But we need the unions if only as a firewall against the ever increasing greed of the powerful and to give many small voices a larger voice.
As the great Union leader John L. Lewis said: Let the workers organize. Let the toilers assemble. Let their crystallized voice proclaim their injustices and demand their privileges. Let all thoughtful citizens sustain them, for the future of Labor is the future of America.
Stand strong, Wisconsin.