American Workers and Liberal Failure

Posted on May 15, 2010 by

I recently heard a conservative characterize the difference between the parties this way:

Democrats, he said, believe in and fight for “justice,” republicans believe in and fight for “opportunity.”

This is very clever posturing, because the apparent compliment (“liberty and justice for all”) is actually code for what republicans want the public to believe: that democrats are fixated on protecting aggrieved groups such as blacks, women and gays.

By claiming “opportunity” as theirs, republicans invite ordinary Americans to identify with economic values that stress individualism.

It’s easy to ridicule republican hypocrisy.  After all, what have conservative policies and practices done for people who work for a living?

But the more intriguing question for me is how the liberal agenda has failed the working class.  The decline in private sector unionization, for example, has persisted under democratic congressional majorities and democratic administrations.  And while establishment liberals were fighting for justice and rights – civil, gender, sexual preference – the rug was being pulled out from under the American worker.

How do we square the fact that noble and necessary national campaigns against employment discrimination were taking place at the same time millions of American jobs in factories and mills were disappearing?  During this entire period of deindustrialization, the only piece of federal legislation on the issue required employers who were closing down to give workers 60-day notice before they throw them out the door.

While many democrats lamented these job losses, some liberal elites quietly approved of deindustrialization.  What better way to discipline the surly, overpaid, unionized working class, put a lid on those nasty smokestacks and convert old mills to waterfront condos?

The decline in high-wage American manufacturing has many villains including, of course, corporate scoundrels eager to exploit cheap labor markets.   But could business interests have succeeded in depleting blue collar employment without the complicity of so-called mainstream liberal democrats – preoccupied with causes – and indifferent to the working class and their unions?

The failure in the Senate this year of the Employee Free Choice Act, a moderate reform in federal labor law which would have imposed some reasonable restraints on union-busting in the private sector, demonstrates again the lack of imagination among democrats. 

And I’ve not yet heard the plan by the Obama administration to close the ever-widening wage, income and wealth gap.

So as the economy “recovers,” entry-level and semi-skilled jobs will reappear.  But “market forces” will ensure that much of this work is low-pay.

People coming off the unemployment lines to eagerly join the ranks of the working poor.

Comments (5)

 

  1. rian nestlen says:

    Let’s face it, government ether left, or right have the same capitalistic agenda and no longer are for or by the PEOPLE!?

  2. Salvador Sanchez says:

    You also need to factor in the nasty internal factions in the labor movement that has contributed to the declined of workers being unionized. I wholeheartedly agree that liberals take our support for granted and conservatives just write us off; We had a Democrat led Congress and a Democrat President and EFCA is dead. I strongly recommend the following book: What happened to Kansas. Well done!

  3. Vicki Di Paolo says:

    I think it would be great if you would set up a fan page on Facebook. And, set up a FB link on LaborLou.com so we can share your articles with our friends. We all need to do our best to voice opinions and share information.

  4. Dan McCrory says:

    I don’t think that “liberal elites” are really against us; it’s simply that we seem to have become irrelevant largely because of our dwindling numbers in the private sector. Shutting down all the smoke belching factories could be attributed to the wrong policies of a Democratic president, but what happened appealed to the green agenda by those whose first priority is the environment.

    As far as the loss of jobs during the Reagan years: I was there and I saw little of the hue and cry from labor to elected officials, the media, and the public at large needed to bring attention to this issue and incentive for action.

    It is true, however, that within the Democratic Party we are sometimes taken for granted. Just a few years ago we had a fight in California (a blue state!) to get some Democratic clubs and leaders within the Party to realize that their materials need to be produced by union printers.

    What we’re seeing NOW is indignation at the “surly, overpaid, unionized working class” whose benefits exceed most of those in the private sector who don’t have a union. Rather than say, “I should fight for benefits like those,” most workers are saying, “I should be thankful I have a job and do nothing to rock the boat.”

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