Monday, September 03, 2012

What Used To Be

When I was in a labor union the basic purpose for labor unions was the simple cause portrayed by the movie Norma Rae, which was simply fair treatment of workers by the business which employed them. I can still see Sally Field standing tall, holding her cardboard sign reading “Union,” and the textile machines shutting down, one by one. Workers, united into a single voice, make a powerful force. Like those ladies in the textile mills, we asked for nothing; we made demands, and when that required standing at the factory gates with axe handles in our hands, that is precisely what we did.

Today workers are standing around waiting for government to restore the union movement for them, moaning and making the claim that government has passed laws that stack the deck in favor of “the other side.” They are like a crowd of homeless, holding out their tin cups and begging for alms.

The original unions were not formed by government, they were formed by workers with courage and a willingness to defy authority. Laws were passed supporting them because those workers had become so powerful that government was afraid to do otherwise. Government does not respond to weakness; it responds to those who buy it or to those who frighten it.

This is America today. We do not stand up on top of a machine and hold up a sign that defies authority. We cower and cravenly beg for authority to provide us with what we want. When they take away the rights provided by our constitution, we thank them for keeping us safe. We’re more afraid of losing what we have than we are willing to stand up for what could be. We have lost the ability to rise up in righteous anger and been made cowards by our own illusion of comfort.

Happy Labor Day? We don’t deserve a happy Labor Day. We have betrayed our workers and our workers have betrayed themselves.

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