Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Connelly on the condition of organized labor

The Seattle P-I's Joel Connelly has written what has to be one of his best columns of all time, published this morning:
In what I hope was an early-morning miscue, the weekend KPLU newsreader recently told listeners that "labor bosses" were gathering in Wenatchee for the Washington State Labor Council's annual convention.

Defining terminology, on the airwaves and deftly inserted in mainstream [traditional] media, has been one of the right wing's small triumphs in forging America's new Gilded Age.

Anyone who protests social injustice is a "bleeding heart." Those who commit themselves to its prevention are "do-gooders." "Liberal" is practically a curse word. Anybody who preaches reconciliation is "soft" -- on crime, on communism, on "Islamic fascism."

Union officials get labeled as "bosses," while executives who slash corporate payrolls or dump employee pension plans get celebrated as "cost cutters" and "downsizers."
This column has so much wisdom in it that it almost makes me wonder how Joel squeezed it all in.

The point about today's era being a new Gilded Age is something that resonates powerfully with me personally. I have long argued that point, making comparisons between the corporate titans of today and those of about a hundred years ago.

Many of the reforms put into place during the progressive era of the early 1900s are now used by the right wing as weapons - for example, direct democracy: initiatives, referenda, and recalls (remember Gray Davis?)

The system is stacked against labor today. The laws are unfriendly, the people in charge (Bush's people, that is) are unfriendly, and the perception of labor is often hostile thanks to right wing media and infrastructure. They seem to work nonstop, crafting garbage like this:
America today is more than ever an equal-opportunity society where individuals can rise on their merits, a condition that makes unions irrelevant.

- Max Green Epitaph for American Labor (published by a right wing think tank)
Organized labor has suffered defeats but it is certainly not defeated. The challenge now is to reverse the decline, organize, and make investments in progressive infrastructure. That's just what unions across the country are doing or starting to do, but labor must be patient: it will take time before the dividends can be reaped.

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