01 September 2008

Labor Day

26 May 1937 | Union organizers, including Walter P. Reuther,
who were attempting to distribute union literature as part of an
campaign at the Ford River Rouge plant in Detroit, were
attacked and brutally beaten by Ford security personnel and a gang of
hired thugs. The event became known as the “Battle of the Overpass.”
Note that this event occurred
after passage of the Wagner Act
(NLRA) which established legal rights to organize. Reuther
and his colleagues had obtained a legal permit for their
activities that day

This morning on npr the always insipid Diane Rehm ran this pre-recorded Labor Day segment. As is her standard practice she invited an extreme right wing ideologue to the table along with a reporter. Today the mouthpiece was Kim Strassel from The Wall Street Journal editorial board. It truly is touching when right-wingers express their abiding concern for the rights and dignity and well-being of workers and the poor. It also is blatantly hypocritical. Strassel was wringing her hands over how union organizers might intimidate and coerce workers during organizing campaigns. Maybe. It seems considerably more likely to me that in such circumstances the real threat to workers and their rights and well-being come from elsewhere. That is just a guess though. In case you think my use of this episode is overly dramatic, try this more recent one too. I think it is fair to say that virtually any public union activity in the U.S. can be a target for violent reaction from employers and the police.

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Blogger Public Squalor said...

You're example isn't overly dramatic at all. Typically cops and rent-a-cops intimidate or hassle workers during conflicts. And if that doesn't work, the company can always secure an injunction to prevent public protest. Further, sit-down strikes and other forms of direct action have been illegal since the mid-20th century.

And in the vast majority of cases, the incidence of intimidation by union organizers is non-existent. On the other hand, a pro-union worker has a 1 in 5 chance of being fired during an organizing campaign.

No doubt American labor unions have plenty of internal problems, but the playing field is hardly level when it comes to organizing.

01 September, 2008 17:48  

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