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Wednesday: Obama puts a gun to the UAW’s head

Labor protests and mourns the Triangle Shirtwaist fire

Labor protests and mourns the Triangle Shirtwaist fire

I am unabashedly pro-union.

Yeah, I know that unions are not free from corruption and sometimes their demands can seem ridculous and anachronistic.  But I would defend them to the death.  Why?

They brought us the weekend.

Let’s just think back to all of the laborers who protested and went on strike and sometimes risked their lives and livelihoods in order to achieve dignity and justice in the workplace.  Without them we wouldn’t have the minimum wage or overtime or weekends.  Working life might still be non-stop, unsafe, for little pay and no benefits.  Unions fought for all of the stuff we non-union people take for granted.  We indirectly benefit as long as unions fight for and set a standard for compensation, benefits, safety and division of labor.  Unions negotiate for themselves and it trickles down to the rest of us. In fact, the trickle down theory only makes sense with respect to unions.

And the business overlords hate them.  They’ve been under attack since the beginning of the 20th century.  Unions got stronger under the New Deal provisions of the Roosevelt Administration and met their nemesis in Ronald Reagan 40 years later.  It’s been all downhill since then.

Cesar Chavez of United Farm Workers

Cesar Chavez of United Farm Workers

Now, comes Barack Obama, who once called unions a “special interest”.  The auto industry is being forced to accept the government’s plan for rescue that will surely result in concessions from them. From the NYTimes, we get a picture of what’s going on:

If he does not act, Mr. Gettelfinger could imperil the workers he has fought to protect. In bankruptcy, companies can seek to persuade a judge to set aside labor contracts and terminate pension plans, by making a case that they are too expensive, forcing workers to rely on smaller government-provided retirement checks. But Mr. Gettelfinger also has to persuade his members that any cuts would be vital for the companies’ survival.

Pressure is mounting. G.M.’s new chief executive, Fritz Henderson, said Tuesday it was “certainly more probable” that G.M. would file for bankruptcy. Mr. Obama, on Monday, left no question that the government would not hesitate to go that route if necessary.

Obama, the “Democrat”, is finally doing what the GOP could only accomplish in their wet dreams.  Obama is putting the final nails in the unions’ coffins.  What he would not force on the bankers or the investment and insurance industries, he will ram down the throats of the guys who assemble your cars.  Gettelfinger thinks he can get a good deal with Obama.  I wouldn’t be too sure about that.  Obama is an opportunist first, last, always.  If he thinks he can get away with stripping the union of any power without raising any fuss from the public, he will.  His banker buddies will reward him lavishly for it someday.

And let’s make this clear, the people who assemble your cars did not make the management decisions to build gas guzzlers or engage in risky investments.  All they wanted were living wages, a share of the profits and a secure retirement.  They negotiated with their management for these things in good faith.  They defered part of their compensation to get pensions and health care in their old age.  Their contracts should be just as binding as any Vice President of Financial Products.  But right now, Obama is holding a gun to their heads and is forcing them to break their own contracts in order to keep their jobs.  This is not required of the criminals and thieves who took out 401K money.  Only the unions are required to do this.

“What we’ve worked for, for 25 years, can be gone in 25 days, basically,” said Bob Vistinar, an assembly inspector who has spent a quarter-century at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich. “That’s how fast this is moving.”

I’m standing in solidarity with the unions.  An attack on working people anywhere is an attack on all of us.  And I’m not giving up my weekend.

Money speaks for money, the devil for his own

Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?

The comfort to the widow, the light to the child

There is power in a union.

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