It amazes me how short the memories of American voters can be. Aside from 9/11, the unnecessary Iraq War, the botched response to Katrina, Enron, WorldCom and the Great Recession of 2008, (all of which happened during the last Republican administration), Class Warfare on Unions, Women, Minorities, etc., all seem to be from another era; not the previous administration. I suppose the Republican Party had a “great run” from 2000 to 2008. One of the biggest setbacks to democracy in America’s history, the activist Supreme Court ruling on Citizen’s United, has allowed a small handful of extremely wealthy Americans to force their will on the voters. The false equivalency that Republicans use is that this was needed to offset the political wherewithall of the unions. Malarkey!!
Using coordinated voter suppression in GOP-controlled states, unlimited funds due to an Activist Supreme Court ruling on Citizen’s United, and a bought and sold entertainment media directing their “news” arms to use their combined influence to convince the voting public to revert to the policies that created so much pain and suffering to the American “un-wealthy”, democracy in America is set up to fail this November. Most of us can only sit back and hope/pray that America dodges this bullet or we could very easily be looking at a bloodless coup of our fundamental rights should George W. Bush on steroids, Mitt Romney, be elected President.
Forget the Fiscal Cliff for a Moment and Remember the People of America
Despite unemployment levels that remain relatively high, and the anxiety caused by people living paycheck to paycheck, many workers in the U.S. are taking matters into their own hands, demanding better working conditions and better pay. This is happening while corporate bank accounts are overflowing with historically high levels of cash on hand, in both the “too big to fail” banks and in non-financial corporations. This is happening when the auto industry and one million jobs were saved contrary to Republican and Mitt Romney’s opposition. This is happening when Wall St. has recovered to pre-2008 collapse levels. This is happening despite Republican obstructionism in Congress for any meaningful legislation and the Republican-controlled 112th Congress literally taking more days off than any Congress in our history and spending time to take 33 separate votes on repealing Obamacare.
If it’s not clear to the American people by now that the Republican Party could are less about anyone except the wealthiest 1%, there’s nothing I can say that will convince you today.
I also know that no one will convince the Tea Party controlled, extreme-right propaganda machine to stop voting against their own interest, but the great recession of 2008, this global economic meltdown, has wiped out the life savings of so many Americans, and fashioned an alarming threat of chronic unemployment for millions. That will take a new Great Depression that will occur if the GOP is successful on Nov. 6th. Also for certain is that the GOP propaganda machine will somehow blame on President Obama.
Warfare on Unions
Scott Walker, radical conservative Governor of Wisconsin and Koch Brothers stooge, fire the first major shot at unions, but Republicans have been using stealth attacks on unions for years. Citizen’s United, and the unlimited funds that it accords any candidate from any source, under the laughable auspices of freedom of speech, rendered the unions immaterial to Republican vs Democrat money wars. A couple of billionaire brothers (Kochs) and a billionaire who made his money in Chinese casinos and prostitution (Adelson) took care of that.
These are the tomato pickers from Florida. These are the migrant workers in Alabama, Texas, and all over the Deep South without whom the farmers go bankrupt. Yet these are the same farmers who vocally support Republicans who seek daily to quash the outcries of any employee who does not tow the Republican line. The propaganda is strong in the U.S., as the rest of the world shakes its collective head at the abject foolhardiness of the 50% of Americans who continually vote against their own interests.
But it looks as though the first serious shot across the anti-union movement is coming from an unlikely source in an unlikely place. These are the workers who are unmentioned in the presidential debates and who remain unwelcome and uninvited into the corporate news networks’ studios. These are the teachers in Chicago, and the employees at Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States.
With inadequate resources, armed only with determination and the belief that they deserve better, they are organizing and getting results, much to the chagrin of Republicans and Walmart executives.
This week, Walmart workers launched the first strike against the giant retailer in its 50-year history, with protests and picket lines at 28 stores across 12 states. Many of these non-union workers are facing reprisal and firings from their employer, despite the protections that exist on paper through the National Labor Relations Board. The strikers are operating under the banner of Our Walmart: Organization United for Respect at Walmart started with support from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
Our Walmart members protested outside Walmart’s “Meeting for the Investment Community 2012” in Bentonville, Arkansas. Demanding a stop to the company’s retaliations, the group promised a vigorous national presence at Walmart stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the largest retail shopping day of the year. The workers have an impressive array of allies ready to join them, including the International Transport Workers Federal and the National Organization for Women.
Walmart has historically shrouded its business practices by engaging subcontractors to perform tasks like warehousing and delivery. In Elwood, Illinois, warehouse workers employed by Walmart subcontractor went out on strike immediately after a similar strike in California. According to Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ):
“Warehouse workers labor under extreme temperatures, lifting thousands of boxes that can weigh up to 250lb each. Workplace injuries are common; workers rarely earn a living wage or have any benefits.”
After 21 days on strike in Elwood, the workers “won their principal demand for an end to illegal retaliation against workers protesting poor conditions. They will return to work … with full pay for the time they were on strike.”
The conditions at their low-wage jobs described by workers in Elwood were reminiscent of those we hear about in China:
“We have a big problem with dust. You know, all our containers that we unload come from China, and they’re just filled with black dust. It’s horrible, breathing the stuff in all day, you know, and we’d have to ask seven, eight times to get a dust mask. We’d just be pointed in different directions, to a different manager, to a different department. And half the time we’d walk away empty-handed at the end of it anyway.
“We’ve actually had trailers that were labeled ‘defumigated in Mexico’. We don’t know why. People have had trouble breathing in the trailers. You know, dust – something as simple and as cheap as a dust mask should just be readily available to anyone, in my opinion, especially a company as wealthy as Walmart.”
These workers were some on hand in Bentonville, Arkansas, Walmart’s corporate headquarters, to protest at the Walmart investor meeting. In an effort to increase pressure on the retailer as the holiday season approaches, 88 employees at the stores missed work, the spokesman, Dan Schlademan, said. Mr. Schlademan, director of the union-backed Making Change at Walmart campaign, added that more than 200 employees were traveling to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to the protest during the company’s annual meeting with financial analysts.
Wal-Mart officials insisted that the protests were publicity stunts rather than strikes, carried out by a tiny fraction of the nation’s 1.4 million Wal-Mart workers.
Mr. Schlademan said Wal-Mart employees had walked off the job in Dallas, Seattle, Miami, Sacramento and Orlando, Fla., and in the Chicago and Washington areas. Tuesday’s job actions were sponsored by the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart, a group of several thousand Walmart employees that is closely affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
“These leaders of OUR Walmart have engaged in a strike to protest Wal-Mart’s retaliation and to send a message to Wal-Mart and their co-workers that they have a right to speak out,” Mr. Schlademan said. “The idea that this is just a publicity stunt is inaccurate.”
“It’s no secret that the unions want to organize our associates,” he said. “These protests are union-led and union-funded by unions that are trying to further their own political and financial agenda.”
Julius G. Getman, a labor expert at the University of Texas School of Law, said it can be hard to draw a line between what is a strike and what is publicity. He said the union and OUR Walmart were searching for ways to get Wal-Mart to improve wages and conditions when they see how hard it would be to unionize even a handful of Walmart stores.
“Wal-Mart has so much power — unions typically don’t win those kind of drives,” he said. “They’re groping, they’re planning to find a way to take on Goliath.”