SCAPEGOATING THE UNIONS

SCAPEGOAT – a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.

Scapegoating the unions has become the game of the day. Labor unions are scapegoated for every ill in this country – even though private industry membership in unions is only 7.5% of the private workforce. That membership of 7.5% provides corporations and free-marketers with a focal point upon which to blame every economic crisis that flows down the pike. That number also means 92.5% of the private workforce is non-unionized and subject to corporate polices that keep wages low while avoiding any kind of payment of benefits.

In 2007 35.9% of public sector employees – 5 times the number in private industry – were unionized. But the public and government don’t go after unions in the public sector. The auto worker unions in particular are the ones that generally bear the brunt of the wrath of the public. And with the sour mood and animosity in the country today, what better group to scapegoat than the unions?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

______________________________________________________________________________

Unions have become the black sheep of the workforce. Even with so few numbers overall, corporations and free-market capitalists continue to unjustly and unabashedly blame unions for every economic crisis, every failed enterprise, every dip in profits, and every rise in costs.

The auto industry predicament has even trumped the Wall Street debacle and has given the corporate moguls the opportunity to finagle its unwarranted share of the American pie by instilling the fear that if financial institutions fail, the country is gone. In the last several months, we have been bombarded by daily cries of doom. Along with those cries of doom, Wall Street insisted that it needed a bailout to keep the United States on its feet.

And, it worked. Wall Street has managed to drag an $850 billion bailout package from the bowels of Congress. Negotiations, heavily favoring Wall Street moguls with their behemoth corporations, resulted in no oversight committee or commission being created to ensure that Wall Street really used the money as it was supposed to do – that is to pump money into the credit markets.

Instead, unfettered by any oversight, the corporations have hoarded the money, and what they have used has gone toward swallowing up smaller fish in the Wall Street pond. Following on the heels of the financial crisis, the auto industries held out their hand for assistance.

Called a “bailout”, the aid is really in the form of loans which must be repaid. As the current debate continues over whether or not to bail out the auto industry, many have focused on the union contracts suggesting that the contracts be torn up. Corporate America and Wall Street would love nothing better than to weaken the auto unions and extract as many concessions as possible.

Americans tend to be good at scapegoating, and, in the present crisis, that scapegoating is being driven by Wall Street’s and corporate America’s desire to break the backs of the remaining unions. Wall Street got its bail out, and, if an auto industry bail out comes with the anticipated strings of union concessions, corporate America will have taken a giant step toward eliminating one of the few remaining worker protections – unionization.

Advertisements

About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Government, Labor, Unions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to SCAPEGOATING THE UNIONS

  1. mark says:

    At what point in the evolution of your liberal philosophy did it become acceptable to abandon all pretense of factual or intellectual honesty in the presentation of your “arguments”? Is making things up allowed just because your intentions and feelings are good?

    There is a current issue about the Big 3 and the impact of their UAW contracts on their economic collapse. Rather than defend the UAW from criticism actually made, you make up criticism and spend a few paragraphs wringing your hands over the unfairness of the things that aren’t actually being said. Brilliant!

    “unions are scapegoated for every ill in this country”- Really? Charlotte, you are bright enough to know your statement is a complete falsehood, aren’t you. Where are all the press reports blaming unions for crime, teenage pregnancy, global warming, poor public schools, high divorce rates, AIDS, rap music, racism, sexism. Come on Charlotte, prove your point or admit you think you are entitled to just make stuff up because you “care” so deeply.

    You claim that unions are blamed for “every economic crisis that comes down the pike.” Are you sure? Can you find any evidence that Unions were blamed by anybody for the tech bubble blow-up of 2000, the current real estate market collapse, or the current credit liquidity crisis? There must be lots of stuff on google since evil corporate America blames “every economic crisis” on unions.

    “corporations and free market capitalists continue to unjustly and unabashedly blame unions for every economic crisis, every failed enterprise, every dip in profits, and every rise in costs.” Since all that blame was “unabashed”, there must be quite a record of it, right? I guess I missed the Unions being blamed for the failure of Lehman Brothers, or the decline in Lincoln Financial’s profits, or the spike in oil prices to $150 per barrel. Where were the unabashed union critics when the RV industry went south, corn prices went up and, locally, Renaissance Pointe and Harrison Square started to fall apart?

    You’ve told us three times in three paragraphs that the market blames unions for everything, Charlotte. How about just a shred of evidence to prove your argument is grounded even somewhere close to reality? Or just admit you think your argument is too well-intentioned to be limited by facts.

    “a giant step toward eliminating one of the few remaining worker protections- unionization.” Oh yes, we’ve all been romancing the memory of the good old days, when workers had lots of protections, and losing sleep as those protections disappear. Remember unemployment insurance? Oh, wait, we still have that and its being expanded. And the good old days when OSHA was around? Oh, we still have that too. Well, it is sure a shame the employment discrimination laws went away. But that didn’t happen either. Well, COBRA, ERISA, WARN, FLSA and wage and hour laws all got repealed. No, actually that didn’t happen either. Did child labor prohibitions disappear? Guess not. Minimum wage go down? No, it went up.

    But, Charlotte, I’m sure in the minds of those who care a lot, worker protections have been decreasing, even if the opposite is true in the real world. Nothing wrong with mourning the loss you didn’t suffer.

  2. Mark:

    Thank you for your down-to-earth view of my opinion. It is my opinion. I think you are also intelligent enough to know that I wasn’t referring to teen pregnancy, abortion, etc. And I am also sure that you are intelligent enough to know that unions are blamed for many economic issues.

    Are you going to tell me that you have never heard anyone blame unions for economic troubles? When the Big 3 get into trouble, what is one of the first accusations thrown out? It’s the unions and their demands – the unions have to give concessions.

    Google the phrase “concessions by unions”, and you will find hundreds if not thousands of articles about unions and their concessions to big business.

    Sure, we have a number of bills and acts still in place that protect workers.
    Let’s look at your statement:

    “Oh yes, we’ve all been romancing the memory of the good old days, when workers had lots of protections, and losing sleep as those protections disappear. Remember unemployment insurance? Oh, wait, we still have that and its being expanded. And the good old days when OSHA was around? Oh, we still have that too. Well, it is sure a shame the employment discrimination laws went away. But that didn’t happen either. Well, COBRA, ERISA, WARN, FLSA and wage and hour laws all got repealed. No, actually that didn’t happen either. Did child labor prohibitions disappear? Guess not. Minimum wage go down? No, it went up.”

    1. unemployment insurance – does this really protect the worker or is there an underlying benefit to society as well? It does both. If an unemployed person has no income, he or she becomes a burden to the taxpayer if the unemployed worker has to rely on social program benefits entirely for subsistence. It helps the economy by preventing unemployed workers from going completely on the public dole. It also provides income – although decreased – so that those unemployed workers can still support the economy by spending.

    2. OSHA – Imagine that – an Act to actually protect workers from injury, death, and illness on the job. Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle” in 1906 which, by way of a novel, exposed the horrendous conditions of the Chicago meatpacking industry. That book did not lead to passage of worker safety laws but laws dealing with food and drugs and inspection of meat. Hmm, and it took how long to come up with OSHA? It was established in 1971 – 65 years after Sinclair’s book.

    3. discrimination laws – Again, many of these laws were passed in the 1960s and 1970s. They were aimed at many different areas of our lives where discrimination was common and a strong feeling that we should not be denied opportunities because of certain “immutable” characteristics. Here are the major laws:

    A. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
    B. the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;
    C. the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older;
    D. Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;
    E. Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government; and
    F. the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

    4. COBRA, ERISA, WARN, FLSA: COBRA – all COBRA does is allow the worker the opportunity to continue his or her previous health coverage – almost always at the full cost – which can be prohibitive to someone who has just lost his or her job. What kind of protection is that for a displaced worker? As to ERISA, WARN, and FLSA – yes, these are all advancements in worker issues.

    And, minimum wage? Surely you jest. Remember how many times in 9 years Mark Souder voted for a pay increase in Congress before he ever thought of one for the average worker? And, let’s see, oh yes, it is now $6.55 for federal workers and workers in those states that have followed the federal lead. If you work a 40-hour week that equals $262 a week or a whopping $13,624.00 a year. No wonder we have to have supplemental programs.

    Some states have even higher minimum wages in place, but a number of the southern states have no minimum wage at all.

    But we are still a nation that operates on an “employment at will” doctrine where either party may terminate the employment relationship at any time. All states follow the doctrine of employment at will – just to varying degrees. Of course there are exceptions, but, in general, the worker has little protection from an at-will relationship where his or her dismissal does not fall into one of those exceptions.

    I realize many companies have instituted procedures focusing on “due process” when an employee is not performing up to par – mainly so they won’t get their butts hauled into court. But, let’s face it, if an employer wants to get rid of you, it can.

    The acts and laws you mention are all a result of not so much union activities but rather the recognition by citizens and officials of the need for fairness in the workplace where corporations are becoming ever more powerful.

    But the bottom line is that workers are still subject to employment at will in all 50 states. While the other protections are nice, if you don’t have a job it doesn’t mean very much to have ERISA, COBRA, etc.

Comments are closed.