America’s Working Class: Can Labor’s Last Stand Turn Into a Global Triumph?

As politicians work diligently to foster as much animus as possible amongst the working class, the opportunity for the American labor movement to turn decades of losses into global triumph is a very real possibility.  Corporations have, for decades, expanded internationally.  Their multinational structure has allowed them to operate without consideration of borders while workers and unions have been politically and geographically divided and used as leverage against each other to drive the value of workers labor lower and lower.  In America this problem has been exacerbated even further by the exploitation of local and State divisions.

Worker’s movements are building throughout Wisconsin, Indiana, and DC, as well as many other States that are beginning to face, or will very soon face, the same threats against the working class.  In every case workers are being asked for drastic concessions while corporations are receiving lucrative tax breaks.  The Supreme Court has expanded the rights of corporations to fund political campaigns without limitation and that power is being used to strip workers of their rights.

Corporations have engaged in a national battle against the workers of America.  In order to be successful, and protect themselves from a completely disenfranchised future of corporate control, the American worker, and the entire American middle class, must consolidate their efforts into a unified national campaign…. and even that will simply be a good start.

A unified national effort will prevent corporations from dividing workers from state to state, making workers compete against each other in a race to the bottom, but it will only be the first step in eliminating corporate manipulation internationally.  As long as corporations continue to be allowed to divide the workforce they will continue to threaten relocation and outsourcing, whether between counties, states, countries, or continents.

American workers are currently being threatened in order to demand that they sacrifice more in order to compete against other workers globally and assist in the exploitation of both themselves and their counterparts in other countries.  This is a pattern that has been repeated for decades as corporate profits soar and their tax burdens are all but eliminated and the working class of the world is tricked into shouldering the burden of protecting the corporate profits.

Train more, work harder, work cheaper, give up more.  Why are we striving to reach the bottom?  Why is labor being asked to equate itself with the lowest common denominator?  American unions have already conceded to a loss of wages and benefits and are now fighting to simply have the right to exist.  Why don’t they flip the script, repeal previous concessions and capitalize on the momentum they have and turn them into gains?

America’s organized labor is positioned to use the skills, resources, and organization it has built to move the labor movement from the fragmented model that worked a century ago into the new global model required to lead labor into the 21st century.  Rather than sitting back and enjoying the show as Republican Governors perform political self-immolation on behalf of their corporate masters, labor leaders should hold the largest recruiting and organizing effort in history.

Global uprisings for social and economic justice are begging for the leadership, support, and infusion of resources that the American labor movement has to offer.  And, the best protection the American labor movement has against corporate threats of relocation and outsourcing is to be united with the workers of the countries that the corporations would exploit.  The American working class needs to join forces with organized and unorganized labor around the world and fight for the rights and benefits of all rather than give up their own and simply fight for the right to exist.  It’s time to re-frame the issue in the light of the renewed strength and mobilization of the American workers and the passionate uprisings of workers around the globe.

Individual actions, state by state, need to be replaced by a nationalized movement willing to invest its considerable resources into this best last chance for the American worker and their counterparts internationally.  It’s time to put all the cards on the table and established a national effort that can in turn create a global entity immune to the machinations of the corporate and financial elite.  American workers should not allow themselves to be tricked into becoming as exploited as Indian or Chinese labor.  They should, instead, ensure that Indian and Chinese labor is not exploited and used as leverage to devalue them.

A coordinated effort by the American workforce would establish power in the hands with whom it belongs, the workers that actually do stuff rather than the suits on Wall Street that simply exploit it for profit.  Predatory capitalists need to be put in their place and taught the lesson that their profit is not more important than people and that an economy is meant to serve society, not be exploited by a select few.

George Buckley, CEO of 3M, has threatened to outsource jobs and move plants to Canada or Mexico if America’s workers don’t do as corporations demand.  The politicians they have in their pocket are already cutting services and raising taxes on the working class while unemployment soars and people are thrown out of their homes.  Bailed-out banks are reporting record profits but the American worker is being asked to pay the debt the banks created by giving up not only wages, benefits, and security, but even their right to bargain collectively.  To complete their coup the corporations need to make sure that they can further exploit the work force in the future without any hindrance from the collective power of the working class.

The arena has grown, the problem has become bigger, the only way to deal with it is if we make the solution equally as large, equally as strong, and equally as flexible and responsive.  The corporations have gone global and it’s time for the fight to become global as well.

In addition to the labor movement and organized labor, every special interest group that has social and economic equality and justice as its goal has a stake in this battle.  Women’s rights and equality in the workplace (women still only make 80% of what men make doing the same job in America), gay rights and equality in the workplace (same sex partner benefits and protection from unlawful dismissal), immigration and migrant workers rights, anti-racism (discrimination in the work place), and environmentalists fighting against corporate pollution and unsustainable practices are all part of this global issue.  The annihilation of organized labor, domestically and internationally, will leave corporations free to do as they please without any opposition.

Corporate interests and the financial sector et al have already purchased Washington.  This is now even more apparent than ever before by what their politicians are trying to do on their behalf.  We are all that we have left.  It’s time to get together and equal their level of organization with our own.

It’s time to overcome the divisions that have been used to promote  weakness.  It’s time to pool resources and unite into a national, and then international, force that is exponentially greater than anything in the past and far superior to the corporations and financial houses.

Corporations are not patriotic let alone dedicated to any particular county or State.  They have no preference for what country, or what peoples, they exploit.  The singular goal is profit.  Labor is a commodity.  If your commodity is comparatively expensive, because you’ve allowed your counterparts in other countries to be exploited, you will find yourself continuing to complain about corporations who have their head offices in your country while outsourcing their jobs to others.

Wisconsin, Indiana, D.C., Ohio, and all the other States being targeted by corporations and their political operatives need to stop allowing themselves to be divided.  Teachers, firefighters, police officers, and public and private workers alike need to find common cause with actors, musicians, and athletes, and channel the efforts of social and environmental activists in a singular effort against those who would divide and exploit us all.

The strength and experience of the American labor movement must then be deployed to ensure that corporations are not allowed to exploit other peoples and in turn use them as leverage against American workers.  The working class must become, in effect, as incorporated as their adversaries.  This is the only practical form of protection that any of us has against the wholesale exploitation of the planet by predatory capitalism and the global financial elite.

The battle is bigger than any one State, or even any one country, and the adversary is far larger and more complex than the likes of a Scott Walker or any other political front-man.  As long as there is division it will be exploited.  Unless there is unity this will be Labor’s last stand, and not only in America.

Imagine the leverage that would be gained through a national labor movement working, or not working, in concert.  Imagine if an organized global labor movement withheld service and production in the same way that corporations and banks withhold capital and hoard profits.  Imagine what would happen if, for three days, from May 1st through the 3rd, the working class, from Egypt, Greece, and Germany ,to India, China, Spain, and Ireland, along with France, England and America, simply stopped and took a ‘vacation.’

This is not a time for labor to make concessions.  This is not a time for the working class of the world to compete for how they are going to pay the debt created by the banks and corporations of the world.  This is a time to organize and to act.  This is a time for labor leaders to stop giving television interviews and start making plans.  This is not a time to fight over the scraps from the table.  This is the time to turn the table over and send the money-changers running for cover.

Consider the effect that the workers actions in Wisconsin have had.  Imagine how a three day national ‘vacation’ would allow for corporate and financial leaders, and their political operatives, to reconsider the true balance of power.  Imagine then how a three day ‘vacation’ of every working class person on the planet might make the global elite rethink how much power they really have.  If workers rights, job security, and collective bargaining, is what you’re after, imagine the bargaining power you would have after a three day global ‘vacation.’


6 Responses to America’s Working Class: Can Labor’s Last Stand Turn Into a Global Triumph?

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1kathy hurt
    March 5, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Excellent article Liam!! simple and to the point!! Thank you sir!!

  2. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Carlos
    March 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Join the movement. Help us topple the American Empire. Visit us at Dangerous Creation.

  3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1BABenny
    March 7, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I thought that your argument was very informative and interesting; however, it appears that your entire argument is based on the assumption that higher wages for Labor is the answer to all our problems. Actually, the ridiculously high wages received through collective bargaining are driving corporations overseas to escape the Unions that drag them and the economy.

    • -1 Vote -1 Vote +1DJZee
      March 8, 2011 at 7:49 pm

      Various statistics on what defines middle class –lower–around $32,000, median-up to $62,000 and managerial/upper at $67,000-$100,000. If most teachers make around $50,000 then they are falling to the level of low-median middle class. What about this seems inflated and huge. Non-affluent school districts, cities and town do not pay super wages…. why doesn’t the public GET this????

      My uncle was a steelworker who, with various overtime opportunities made $75-125,000 a year in the 1970′s and 80′s. My friends who chose business over education for careers started making around $30,000 out of college when I, a teacher, made $8300. True they didn’t get a pension, but they got profit sharing $401 K’s (which are a better deal than the $403B’s educators can contribute to) and bonuses that were more than double my salary–they always had new cars, could buy a home relatively soon after starting work–they got credit cards/expense accounts, travel, phone allowances.

      Geeze the teachers haven’t bankrupted America, the teachers DON’t get huge raises every year. You know what a teacher “step increase” is ?? Really Try a yearly raise of $700 . divided by 26 pays. Get your facts straight folks for crying out loud.

      Yes I CHOSE education. I CHOSE to make less than I deserve for the work and hours I put in–and don’t you DARE call teaching a part-time job. Don’t even TRY that on me….. We work as many hours off the clock as on….

      • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Mike Mills
        March 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm

        “You know what a teacher ‘step increase’ is ?? Really Try a yearly raise of $700 .”

        So you admit that teachers have been getting raises while we in the private sector have been getting pay cuts.

        I wish I got a raise of $700 instead of two back-to-back 15% pay cuts.

  4. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1carpenter302
    March 9, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Excellent article. I am a Union Carpenter and I believe that the corporations need to be stopped over seas. If our counterparts, those men and women and children that get paid pennies on the dollar, would walk off the job and join together and refuse to work for the American companies, those corporations would get the point. They would be forced to move back to our shores and pay our wages, instead of using people just so they can make a profit. Lets stand up America and protect our rights as free people. If the corporations win we will see working conditions like they were back before the unions gave us a 40 hour work week. We will see our children going to work at young ages to help support their parents because wages will go drastically down. Lets stand up and show them who we are and that we aren’t going to take their strong arm anymore.