Saturday, March 04, 2006

THE CORPORATE AND GOVERNMENTAL WAR ON THE AMERICAN WORKER

Editor's note
by
Enlightenment (Trevor)
 
This post was originally Part 10 of OUR TAKE ON THE 14 CHARACTERISTICS OF FASCISM.  When we wrote it in mid 2005 I wanted to include a section about corporations, money, and personal responsibility.   My son,Brandon, thought it was a good idea, but decided that the post was already too long and suggested that we use the ideas in separate articles.  We have done so, but considering the week long celebration (an interesting choice of words) I thought it might be a good time to reconstruct the deleted material as a prologue to our piece about American Labor.
 
Corporations have been been playing both ends against the middle for too, too long.   When they want to use their financial influence to lobby (read bribe elected officials) or drown out their opponents' messages during political campaigns (read buy an election), they claim that the right to spend money is a form of Constitutionally protected speech.   In those cases they claim the rights and privileges of an individual.   But when they do something wrong, when they break the law, or when their products cause harm to flesh and blood human beings, then corporations turn around and claim that they cannot be held responsible because they are "fictitious entities," not human individuals.   This is so self-contradictory and so irrational that it defies any standard of logic and decency, and yet this is the exact kind of lunacy that our laws and Supreme Courts have been upholding for year after torturous year. 
 
When a human being murders someone and then covers up the crime and evidence, the chances are that human being, that individual will, upon discovery, be tried, found guilty, and quite possibly executed.   When you execute an individual, every cell, organ, and system within the individual's body actually dies.  He or she no longer exists as a conscious entity.   Now what do you think might happen if a corporation were to knowingly create a product that kills thousands of people, but then refuses to recall the product, covered up the crime,and concealed the evidence.   Assuming that the corporation made a monumental blunder and was eventually outed, just how would you apply the same standards that you applied to the individual human being?    The answer is obvious.  You can't.   To execute the corporation in the same way that you  might execute a human being, you would quite literally have to kill every cell, organ, and system within this supposedly "fictitious entity."   In other words, to apply the death penalty, you would have to kill everyone from the lowest paid janitor on up to the CEO and the Board of Directors.   Obviously this would be a barbarous practice, and it could never be done, but it does go to the heart of the problem.
 
Responsibility.  
 
A corporation cannot and should not receive the same rights as an individual human being simply because it cannot be held responsible in the same manner.   And yet the same people, the same right wing politicians, who talk about personal responsibility for the lower and middle classes are the same people who demand no responsibility from their corporate masters.
 
To remedy this situation I think a good place to begin would be the overturning of Buckley Vs. Vallejo, the imbecilic, and frankly, tyrannical, court ruling which transformed corporations from mere businesses into financial and political gods.    In a truly Orwellian twist of logic, Buckley vs. Vallejo actually creates a situation in which all Americans have freedom of speech, while some people have more freedom of speech than others.   Or to be precise, it legalized corruption and bribery at the expense of clean, fair elections.  
 
 Another good lace to begin is with the overturning of legislation, the Taft Hartley Act, which strips American workers of their Constitutional right to freedom of assembly-- and that's what this post is about.
 
 
 
THE REPRESSION OF LABOR:
THE CORPORATE AND GOVERNMENTAL WAR ON THE AMERICAN WORKER
 
By Abraham, Enlightenment, and Karen

"Deprived of the trade unions, collective bargaining, and the right to strike, the German workers in the Third Reich became an industrial serf, bound to his master, the employer, much as medieval peasants had been bound to the lord of the manner. The so called Labor Front, which in theory replaced the old trade unions, did not represent the workers. According to the law of October 24, 1934, which created it, was 'the organization of creative Germans of brain and fist.' It took on not only wage and salary earners, but also the employers and members of the professions. It was really a vast propaganda organization, and as some workers said, a gigantic fraud. Its aim, as stated in law, was not to protect the workers, but to 'create a true social and productive community of all Germans. Its task is to see that every individual should be able to perform the maximum of work.'"

From THE RISE AND THE FALL OF THE THIRD REICH: A HISTORY OF NAZI GERMANY, page 263
By William L. Shirer
Published in 1960 by Simon and Schuster


Don't you just love it when right wing class warriors condemn the idea of class warfare?

We seem to have forgotten that the axis powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan) had no trouble with labor unions because they cracked down on them: often brutally. That's only logical because labor unions, by their very nature, are a nongovernmental source of democratic _expression, promoting everything from fair wages and safer working conditions, to freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. Granted, right wingers typically condemn labor unions because of alleged low production and higher prices; but the truth behind right wing class warfare is the unholy marriage of the Republican Party to Corporate America which funds Republican political campaigns.

In both, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, big business played a political game of footsie with Mussolini and Adolf Hitler; and while the corporations paid a heavy price in the form of constant state harassment, German and Italian business leaders didn't complain too loudly when profit margins went through the roof. True, it was done at the expense of the workers' rights, but who said that corporations are democratic institutions? They are not. By their very nature, they (corporations) are at best feudal, and at the worst, fascist.

The only thing that matters to Corporate America is the bottom line. If corporations believe that a mild form of fascism, such as we seem to be heading towards today, will create larger profit margins, then corporations will continue to make political contributions to would be fascists no matter how repressive and brutal those politicians may become.

But that raises a rather important question. What's at stake? Well, off hand, we would suggest the following:

"Congress shall make now law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; nor abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances."

We shall repeat the relevant words here: "FREEDOM OF SPEECH"and "THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO PEACEABLY ASSEMBLE."

Contrary to the wishes of corporations, the American people really do have rights, and since the Constitution hasn't been rewritten so as to ban freedom of association, the American people have the right to form unions; although you would never know it, judging by the manner in which workers are bullied, spied on, and harassed whenever they attempt to form one. Indeed, if you want to see fascism in action, just look at how a corporation behaves when its workers decide to unionize.

The minute a corporation gets wind of a union, the Powers That Be call in specialized lawyers and psychologists (union busters) who conduct psychological warfare against the workers. Supervisors are transformed into the corporate equivalent of Gestapo officers, reporting, often on a daily basis, to union busting consultants, snitching on the behaviors and reactions of the worker. During the course of the unionizing campaign each worker may be interviewed (some might say harassed) as often as 20 to 25 times. Backing the corporations are organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and a plethora of right wing think tanks such as the Free Enterprise Institute and others.

Another tactic is the dissolution of existing unions. Some large companies may deliberately provoke their unions into launching costly strikes which unusually end up hurting both sides. Or the corporation may exploit a legal loophole and engage in "double breasting." Translated into modern English the corporation splits in two: one part unionized, the other operating with nonunion workers. Or the employer may encourage employees to circulate petitions which would decertify the union. On the legal front, corporations are constantly seeking ways to undermine First Amendment Rights to peaceful assembly through legislation that would impose even greater restrictions on peaceful picketing.

As if anything could be worse than the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

*The Taft-Hartley Act undermined workers rights by giving states the right to enact Orwellian named "right to work" laws. In essence, workers can supposedly still enjoy the benefits that come from union membership, minus the dues, without actually joining the union. But this only gives more power to the corporation by diluting the number of unionized workers, weakening the union's collective bargaining power.

*Supervisors and independent contractors are not counted as employees, excluding them from the pool of workers while transforming supervisors into union busters for the corporation.

*The closed shop is banned. Closed shops essentially require a potential employee to join the union before he or she is eligible for employment with the unionized employer.

*Employees are allowed to petition for a union certification election. This may sound fair on the surface, it gives employees a huge advantage in that it allows them to control the timing of the vote, and often forcing that vote to take place before the union is ready to hold one.

*Taft-Hartley diminishes the organizing and bargaining power of labor unions by banning secondary boycotts.

*Taft-Hartley also gives corporations the right to campaign against the workers' First Amendment Rights. That is, it nullifies the principles of employee neutrality and allows management to campaign against the formation of a union, when in fact the only debate is the one that should be going on between the workers without outside interference.

*Election hearings concerning disputed matters must be held before a vote is taken to recognize the union. This too sounds harmless enough, but the delay usually benefits the corporation, since it gives high paid lawyers and psychologists an opportunity to harass and coerce workers.

This is quite a change from the 1939 Wagner (National Labor Relations) Act which outlawed company unions, forbade management from interfering in the formation of unions, and, which established the National Labor Relations Board to hear complaints and, if necessary, issue cease and desist orders which could be enforced in federal courts. Of course, the Wagner Act was a product of the New Deal (which Bush and his cronies seem so determined to completely dismantle) and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But then again, Franklin Roosevelt was actually dedicated to fighting fascism.

And that's more than we can say for some presidents and some corporations.
 
 

 

 

1 comment:

LILY BRANFORD said...

I think that the link to trends in labor relations is important, but also to add to that the republicans have a history of reducing union bargaining power by abusing authority to interfere on the very murky basis of 'public good'. The dilemma of the 'eesential' employee has worked in the favor of republicans who have on many occasions stopped strikes and worker actions. An example was the air traffic controller strike where Reagan interfered, or the many cases where states have refused to enter into contract negotiations with their own workers knowing full well that those impacted employees would not be allowed to strike. This has even been used for budget balancing- in New York state when unionized workers went three years without a contract but could not strike as hospital workers.

Do you see anyone held accoutnable for the fact that refusing to renegotiate an expired contract saves them money in cost of living increases? No contract means holding the line on current costs. But the costs to live went up!

So this is another example of the laws pertaining to strikes being used to effecively redice the functional clout of a union. There are many other ways.

I think this is a great post, and of course, we cannot talk about corruption without talking about labor. Unfortunately labor is such a broad topic in itself- but I would love to read more of what you say on these matters. Thank you for your support of corruption week! Hopefully we ALL learned. You guys are a great group over here.