A NEW ROLE FOR LABOR UNIONS

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From The Commoner Call (10/30/17)

A recent statement from the AFL-CIO regarding a rejection of NAFTA and other corporate/globalist trade agreements unfortunately only skims the surface of the issues working people face. We are missing a vision of where we are going as a nation.

At root of the problem is a missing American vision of where we are going as a society. Our mythos is wrapped up in conquering the “wild” lands, inhabited by people we don’t respect or understand, whom we can push out of the way. Those days are over, but something really important is missing.

By conflating freedom and capitalism we accept the idea that planning is the road to totalitarianism; when in fact allowing capital markets to determine the shape of our world opens the door to the worst form of totalitarianism: the oligarchy that destroys even the pretense of freedom, and ignores the long term in favor of the quick and easy. Unions should have a much greater say in operations and a seat at the table for all planning.

As the implementers of the plan, workers have the expertise to develop best practices, and as the consumers we offer not only demand for the production, but also suffer the results of poor decisions.

Purchasing “cheaper” goods from a big box store that underpays it workers costs us in taxes for their benefits and their inability to contribute to the commonwealth, just as “cheap” natural gas costs us in unchecked chemical pollution of our water tables, and methane leaks that threaten all of our previous gains in CO2 reductions.

We can have big box stores, and we can have energy, but as educated consumers we need to see that prices cover actual costs. We need to see our daily effort as workers add up to solving our communities’ problems.

Unions, operating in an international framework, offer a better platform to empower us than political parties do. The influence of corporate money in politics has destroyed the Democratic Party’s ability to support a strong labor movement. The Republican Party’s 80-year effort to rip apart the social fabric created in the New Deal has made them forever the enemy of working people. Their recent success in hoodwinking blue collar Americans only underlines the weakness of the Democrats and their “partners” in Labor.

Labor unions support our military adventures because they make jobs at home, and support the lifestyle we have decided we deserve, regardless of the cost to other peoples or the environment.

An international approach would bring our troops home, offer assistance when and where needed, and free up the tremendous waste of people and materials to develop better lives for all.

How do we pay for universal health care, education, the 35-hour week, and affordable housing? We stop the military madness, so aptly described by President Eisenhower in his Military-Industrial Complex speech, and invest in peace with an educated workforce that receives a living wage.

We need to develop a new consensus that will allow a transition to a sustainable economy that protects the ecosystem while offering full employment and a wide array of social benefits. Union organizing needs to go beyond individual trades protecting their piece of the current production. We need to fight for the rights and the power to steer the ship of state into calmer waters.

The climate change expressway is approaching a cliff. Instead of building more lanes we need to build off ramps. The political swing to coal supports 50,000 dirty jobs and is not competitive when all the costs are calculated. The switch to alternative energy supports hundreds of thousands of union scale jobs and offers a future. Unions can no longer be blind to the differences.

The idea that protecting American jobs is a zero sum game with the emerging economies of the former third world is false. We need to shed the neo-liberal/corporate manipulation of the world’s economic system, stop using the military to impose it, and develop consensus that a sustainable economy offers peace and prosperity to everyone. Unions need to take the lead. Individuals can only do so much and the politicians won’t.

(To read more, go to The Commoner Call, 10-30-2017)