Friday, April 15, 2011

Slobidarity, Yes

During a time where the middle class is just about at the midpoint of its disappearing act, one would think that there should be a grass-roots revolt by the oppressed merchant and proletariat classes, but no. The Tea Party, or Tea Baggers, as Bill Maher likes to call them, inexplicably employ sufficient leverage to scare the centre even out of John Boehner. And that rightward momentum of the movement itself flies in the face of logic: middle-class, middle-aged  people facing effectively stagnant income, reduced benefits they either need now or will need at retirement or when they get sick busily campaigning against their own interests.

One would think it's the perfect time for unions to step in and up the ante and not just with the occasional display of a giant inflatable rat. And if the unions are worried about small-shop viability, there's no shortage of bedraggled, disenfranchised workers out there. Wal-Mart alone employees 2.1 million people across the globe.

So, say you want to start a union at your place of work. The logical first step would be to find out a bit of general information about unions and how they can help in the process. Of course, you'd want to limit your exposure in getting "caught," and what better way than making semi-anonymous contact by e-mail?

I tried it. The result in the the screen capture above. And this was through the national AFL-CIO / Teamsters site. I followed up with a call, which referred me to someone else, who gave me the number of a local organizer, who's number was disconnected. So, in the solemn quest to find out whether I could organize my imaginary workplace, I exposed my theoretically soon-to-be unemployed underbelly to quite a few people, something a real and frightened worker would probably not do.

My mother was a union worker only because she couldn't work without it. The story of the growth of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union has its roots in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Into the mid-50's and into the very early 70's, the unions saw the great arc of their cumulative success begin a long march into the sea until today, where they seem less than relevant, since the shift of American business has been to non-smokestack industries and so many "traditional" jobs have simply gone away, either overseas or as victim of technology or forced efficiency.

With all of this motivation, history and new opportunity, the unions, like the left in general, cower and shirk, still, apparently, not ready for prime-time. Oh, well. Welcome to Wal-Mart!

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