You must have heard Republican politicians complaining about President Obama’s proposal to roll back the Bush tax break to the richest Americans. Obama is proposing a return to the income tax rates paid during the pre-Bush years by families making $250,000 a year or more. According to Republican leaders (and some media commentators), this is “class warfare.”
The irony is sickening. It is a fact that class warfare persists all over the world as the age-old struggle between Capital and Labor rages on. But the most ferocious class warfare in America today is being waged by employers and their political pawns in the Republican Party, not by Obama.
At the heart of this battle is a resurgence of union busting practices. Anti-union policies are especially prevalent in the South, where Republicans are in control. Florida, where I live now, is a “right to work” state, in other words a state where you have the right to work as long and as hard – and for as little money – as the employer wishes. Workers have almost no rights in Florida, and the state makes it as difficult as possible for employees to form unions.
The situation is not much better across the nation. Under existing laws, union busting has become a thriving industry. Employers can demand a secret-ballot election, giving them time to bring in professionals who use intimidation, propaganda and any other means – fair or foul – to change employees’ minds. That’s why labor leaders are campaigning for the Employee Free Choice Act (see union cartoon at left), which would let employees organize by simply signing a card. It would be up to the employees (instead of the employer) to choose a secret-ballot election if they wanted one. The Employee Free Choice Act also calls for binding arbitration if the employees don’t have a work contract 90 days after the union is certified. Under today’s laws, the bargaining process can drag on and on.
Opposition to the proposed law is fierce. Big Business is using every means at its disposal to try and defeat the bill. A massive propaganda effort (funded in part by taxpayer bailout money!) is under way. And millions of dollars have been spent to win over politicians. As you might expect, Republicans have lined up in management’s corner. As you might not expect, so have some Democrats. Obviously, money talks.
There’s more to it than money, though. There’s the Wal-Mart factor, for example. The retail giant is among the most anti-union companies on earth and makes no secret of that fact. And since it is headquartered in Benton, Ark., you can understand why Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) might hesitate to vote for the legislation. But Democratic politicians depend heavily on labor support – which will not be forthcoming in the 2010 elections if they side with management in this battle.
Another consideration for politicians is the fact that – despite the lies and disinformation spread by opponents – a majority of Americans support the Employee Free Choice Act. A recent Gallup poll showed 53 percent in favor of the legislation, 39 percent opposed and 8 percent with no opinion. Support for the legislation is especially strong among Democrats. The poll showed 70 percent of Democrats in favor and only 23 percent opposed (8 percent had no opinion).
Obviously, lawmakers will have to make tough choices as class warfare rages on in America. But the President’s tax proposals aren’t part of that conflict.