As Americans celebrate Labor Day, I wonder how many spare a thought for those much-criticized trade unions that made the holiday possible. I suspect hardly anybody – except politicians like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and the diehard union members attending their rallies. (Biden’s Detroit rally pictured above).
It was organized labor, with all its shortcomings, that gave us such benefits as weekends, overtime pay, employee health insurance, pension plans and bargaining rights. Without the unions, American workers would be like those pathetic laborers in foreign lands who are stealing their jobs.
Ironically, as organized labor won an increasingly good life for America’s workers, the unions lost supporters. The beneficiaries of organized labor’s battles looked down on the movement as they climbed the social ladder. I’m sure you’ve heard this song:
The working class can kiss my a**. I’ve got the foreman’s job at last.
It’s how people are. Ungrateful and short-sighted.
The support that America’s white working class gives Republicans is a glaring example of this human failing. Anyone with half a brain must realize by now that Republicans are the party of Big Business. Especially since Ronald Reagan, the party has unapologetically supported corporate tax cuts; promoted trade deals that outsource jobs to low-wage countries, opposed raising the minimum wage and attacked the social safety net.
And they have waged a relentless war against organized labor. It’s the white-skinned, blue-collar voter who forms the core of the Republican base. Yet it’s the Democratic Party, traditionally financed by the unions, that has fought through the years for those same workers’ rights.
Of course the Republicans – ever since Richard Nixon – have used wedge issues such as race prejudice, abortion and bigotry of all kinds to turn working class voters against each other. (Donald Trump’s candidacy is the apotheosis of these tawdry tactics.)
Meanwhile, using sophitricated pscyhological technicuues and slick public relations campaigns, the deep-pocketed Republicans have managed to blame the Democrats for the gridlock they themselves have caused in Congress.