Of course by now nearly everyone from your wingnut uncle Walter who lives in a trailer in the middle Ozarks to the brain-dead hipster in Greenwich Village knows that the Hostess company has filed for bankruptcy and basically screwed workers out of nearly everything. Of course anyone with half a brain who’s been around long enough to know the lyrics to a famous Nazareth song about being pissed off and ready to fuck some shit up pretty quick, knows this old story about corporate meltdowns and workers getting the boot with nothing more than their last paycheck. Its old hat these days.
So why the whining and hand-wringing going on among so many in the leftward blogosphere about “What Really Happened to Hostess”. I mean really, Black Commentator had a piece a bit back, written by someone on the front lines in St. Louis, telling sordid tales of long active racism within the company’s management, about the company’s anti-union tactics and other misdeeds also so typical of the American worker story today. We noticed other stories, well written that popped out right away telling the whole story for what it was.
So now again, why now all the Johnny Come Latelies?
Possibly we’d say because the unions have had to wake up from their trance and figure out that they just lost their ass again. Oh wait, I forget myself; that’s right, the unions that the workers at Hostess were a member of weren’t part of the other fight [name one in your community or Local] because you know, the other unions have their own battles and hey, tough luck there kid.
Or something like that. I know, how naive of me to imagine that possibly unions might be able to climb over their proverbial, imaginary fences that divide them and reach out and work with each other on a meaningful basis. Of course that might also mean that the AFL-CIO drop their absolutely offensive “Save the Middle Class” campaign and stop trying to convince their rank and file that they are some kind of bourgeois Third Estate that the worker/proletariat must serve and that they must not soil themselves with fighting their battles.
I mean, have you seen teachers, fire fighters, police officers, janitors, hotel workers, meat packers, millwrights or the candle stick maker, the butcher and the baker for that matter all stand together in solidarity when one of them gets threatened by the plutocracy? No, neither have I.
It seems high time they did.
Classism is a construct and tool of the elites, whether of tyranny by capitalism or whatever other means. One will not find a donut in a shit pile and you won’t find democracy or justice within the oppression of classism, racism or any other construct made to divide one group against another, which only benefits those outside the struggle for crumbs.
Despite all the hand-wringing and analysis and the “OMG!” going on about the unholy greediness of the plutocrat class, the fact is you’d have to not only live under a rock, but possibly be living under a rock under Uncle Walter’s trailer and be deaf and dumb as a stump to not know that this has been going on with plutocrats for a pretty long time. It seems at some point we can conclude that the capitalist class really sucks at creativity no? They keep playing that old song of rape and pillage and many of us hold our hands to our ears and say, “I can’t believe it! I didn’t know they knew that tune!”
But with a regularity you can set your watch by, the liberals and left end of the spectrum here in the Land of the Not-So-Free acts with shocked and stunned surprise when they find out that a capitalist is greedy and selfish. This happens so often that one might begin to think that a large portion of our society really wants to believe that capitalism really works. Like the wife of the cheating husband who promises to be good next time, a large sector of Americans continue to sit at home alone, tears streaming down their faces not believing he did it again! What happened, they think and then they ruminate on husbands misdeeds. Well sweetheart, that works for the first time around. Remember the old saying, “Fool me once…don’t get fooled again.” Oh wait that was the Bush II version, anyway, you know what I’m talking about; stop being a damned sucker.
Without solidarity — you know unity, without workers coming together from all sectors and standing up when any sector is threatened — as a unified act of power — nothing will change. The plutocracy will not stop until every single worker in this country is reduced to the newly cherished and celebrated “entrepreneur” who struggles for whatever he/she can pinch out of the economy, with little hope of a pension or even basic protections such as worker’s comp or the added luxury of health insurance. Don’t believe this? Look around at skilled jobs in the “private sector” among the working classes, besides the low hanging fruit of the Wal-Marts of the world.
You will see auto mechanics, trades people, sales professionals, temp workers, computer techs, service workers, maintenance workers, those in the building trades — all often working under the ubiquitous “independent contractor”, temp worker status or as the much maligned and marginalized non-voting/non-citizen resident worker. A part of the new worker frame, found more and more tolerable as the standard among the young, the world many happily escape with a union retirement just one jump before the ax.
All the while though, the major business unions seem to be doing what? Wisconsin was ready for a major general strike that would have shut down the whole state and showed workers where their power was, but the major unions bargained that power away with the Democrats who wanted a chance to grab power — and couldn’t do that competently. For whatever the incompetence or compliance the Democrats demonstrated, the fact is that workers lost and large labor unions cemented their traditional bond with the Democratic party — you pay us to organize our people (not all workers mind you, just the select middle class) and we’ll deliver when you need them or hold them back when you ask.
Now again, a major company falls off the edge and throws its workers off the cliff and although the struggles of the workers at Hostess and the poor management of the company was no secret, the larger unions couldn’t find a way to get there and help the workers out. Maybe run a picket, a campaign. What did they do, clear their throats before their party overlords and ask permission that was denied? Or did they more accurately, realize that they probably couldn’t even get their rank and file anywhere since they can’t even get them most of them to come to a meeting.
Now Michigan is about to turn, as one Facebook commenter aptly stated, “Right to Freeload”. Unbelievable, historically the last bastion of the rust belt. First Wisconsin last year, now St. Louis and Michigan in a matter of months. In some ways its no surprise as the unions sat on their hands for thirty years, have ignored the job of educating their rank and file about the labor struggle and had the audacity to even (under the leadership of Lane Kirkland most notably) let Reagan and Carter before that negotiate rust-belt jobs away in the name of “competition” and some other capitalist tripe about impending globalism sold to the workers as meaningful economic theory for worker prosperity.
St. Louis needs another factory to leave that area like capitalism needs another ethical black hole. But hey, who cares? Anyone who had lived in the Mid-West knows damn well that workers there cannot afford to lose a job; the city like most of the rust belt was hollowed out long ago. But let’s go ahead and talk theory; how and who was screwed over and especially how the Republicans are big bad meanies. There are people going hungry on the streets, losing their homes — not just houses they bought, but apartments they rent. There are people whose last paycheck was last week, last month, last year and they know all too well what it is to “struggle” in the “free market”. Oh and by the way, let’s ask Warren Buckets-O-Money what he thinks.
Nothing like being one of those workers and having a member or a lackey of the plutocrat class tell you about how “liberals” need to stop “programs” because you know, what poor folks don’t have is ambition. Because finding the ambition to make it to the next week is just small stuff; no worries. Homelessness is a myth of course; it only happens to the drunks down by the river, in a tent, on your street corner with a cardboard sign. Because we all know what their problem is and they stand as examples of what a “poor work ethic” will do to you too — until of course your company closes and you are thrown out in the street with the paper recycling; a commodity used up, disposed of and gone.
As I write this, a worker tells me tonight that he has worked for a week and a half, after being unemployed for months, his hands rough and nicked from the metal roofing he works with open in frustration before me, “I work for two days, get out for one day to heal myself and then go back to do it all again to make him [owner of the company] more money!” he then goes on, “Then what do I have? Two days of work, a prescription I can’t pay for a hospital bill that I’ll never be able to pay and if I don’t show up, I’m out with nothing. I work to make him money and wear myself to the ground.”
He said that he told the hospital staff, “Insurance?! I have no insurance, I don’t even have workman’s comp! I’ll have to pay all my taxes myself, I can’t even get unemployment!” The woman behind the counter quietly says, “Its too bad you don’t have a friend who has a prescription with Wal-Mart where you can get your prescriptions for a few dollars.”
Well I know that fact to be untrue. I have a Wal-Mart card and I know that only a few commonly used drugs that are cheaply produced on the generic level are offered to Wal-Mart customers at ridiculously low prices and it wouldn’t surprise me if they receive a grant from the government or from the manufacturers to distribute some drugs cheaply through Wal-Mart.
Whoops, now we’re off on the healthcare system, but frankly, its all related. As wages among workers stagnate with the least organized going first, all workers will face the multitudinous ways in which the capitalist system screws them over. If they get paid, its so little that they can barely meet their most basic needs, but, a lifeline is woven inside the thicket of human commodification that helps to keep the workers on the thread and also appearing just saved enough for the masses to ignore.
Ignore at their peril as all worker’s wages are inextricably tied together and one lead weight over the side of the ship pulls the whole vessel further to collapse. So long has this gone on and so gradual has the shift been (although it is disputable as to how gradual it is now, but that’s another discussion) that most of the workers in this country believe the shift to be minimal, to be an isolated event. “Keep calm and carry on” as they traditionally say in Britain with a stiff upper lip supposedly, carry that burden and shut up, keep up the faith, the one speaks first loses so the game goes.
FANTASTIC! NAIL ON THE HEAD!
talking about organized labor using the terms of ancient communist writings is akin to having a one sided conversation.
Sorry if you see talking about the struggles of workers as “communist”, I find this amusingly usually from those who see the struggle of labor and the working people as just nothing more than a theoretical exercise. Perhaps if you have had to live in the world of low-wage work and raise a family on the pittance you are allowed you’d be less inclined to give a rat’s ass about who’s theory is showing through and more inclined to be concerned about the who in the hell exactly labor unions are representing. Because when it comes down to it, as said in the article, the “middle class” that the AFL-CIO and other large unions, including the Democratic party and their leader, claim to “protect” really seems to mean that everyone else underneath has to once again wait until they get around to us.
That’s the truth, whatever stripe you care to identify it doesn’t matter. The struggle of workers today needs to be unified, if you don’t see that, then have a good day and go back to your insular world. We’ll carry on.