Friday, April 1, 2011

Union Busting, Free Trade, and Personal History


We're seeing a lot of attempts at union-busting these days, in Wisconsin, Ohio, and here in Michigan. I believe that this is both the explicit policy goal of the Republican party, as well as the inevitable result of unrestrained world "free" market capitalism: to break apart our social structure in order to make massive wage-reductions, gut environmental protections and ethical practice regulations across the board so that the cost of doing business in the US will come into line with third-world and developing-world competitors.

In the 1900's, we fought our way out of sweatshops, child labor, cruelty and danger in workplaces, and appalling environmental degradation; now we are seeing a focused effort to turn back the clock and reclaim the bitter fruits of those policies and those times.

My grandfather lived through a big chunk of the 20th century. Born in 1910, he had to drop out of school in the 3rd grade to work on his family's farm. He knew what it meant to be a laborer, and he grew up to be a died-in-the-wool social conservative.

He was also a welder and a labor organizer. He lost his thumb in a workplace accident and got pushed around by Pinkerton guards hired by the bosses to bust heads in a labor action for fair treatment and reasonable safety practices. He told me that he voted the straight Democratic ticket ("pulled that Democratic lever") every year of his adult life. I'm posting this song for him, today, as well as for my dad, who sang it at the top of his lungs.

It's more important than ever to hold an alternative vision.

Looks like we've got to go back and re-fight the fight that Woody and Pete were singin' about all those years ago...

2 comments:

Mark said...

Thanks for posting this. It's important to remember things like this.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading Upton Sinclair at a very young age and feeling such outrage. The black and white photos haunt me still. It's so unfortunate we live in a society that believes it's above learning from past mistakes. Thank you for your insights. --Beth