Good afternoon dear readers and welcome back to We The People! This is Ken Baxter of Las Vegas and today is Monday, July 6th, 2015. While many of us went to 4th of July barbeques and parades this weekend as we celebrated America’s birthday with family and friends, we must not forget that this holiday means much more than sparklers and fireworks! Just 239 years ago on July 2nd, the Second Continental Congress of 1776 unanimously approved the thirteen American colonies intent to formally separate from the British Empire’s rule under King George III. Two days later, on July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by 56 of our nation’s leaders and thus the United States and our Independence Day was born!
The battle for democracy and true independence was hard fought though and didn’t result from the signing of a single piece of parchment, as eloquently worded as it was. Broadened opposition to unjustly imposed British taxes set the stage for freedom fighters at the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and consequently gave the American colonists reason to establish their own form of government for protection against increasingly hostile British rule. Not long after, the battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts brought to a head the localized colonial uprisings and marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War on American soil. Finally, after seven long years of bloodshed in a fight which included allied forces from France, the Netherlands, and Spain exacting revenge on the Brits, American freedom was won in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris finally recognizing the sovereignty and unification of the first thirteen colonies of the United States.
With the unionization of those original states, we also formed the foundation for American democracy and organized government. Through many wars and victories, America soldiered on to become a successful, ever-expanding nation. With the addition of new states and major cities cropping up around the country over the next hundred years, the home of the free became just that to over 75 million people. Immigrants from around the world made the journey to the USA seeking religious and political freedom, jobs, and opportunities.
By the late 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was well underway and great improvements made in transportation, manufacturing, and communication technology transformed the lives of American citizens. Huge economic gains driven by steam and coal powered mills, factories, and railroads made trade and shipping big business for American companies. The new factories brought jobs even for unskilled laborers who were taught to operate equipment capable of replacing the skilled tradesman’s hands. It is said that no single time in history has had greater impact on our growth as a country than the Industrial Revolution. Yet not all bumps in the road of history were easy to overcome.
Following the industrial boom of the late 1800’s, Americans saw prosperity and advancement in every direction. Stock exchanges fueled the growth of our nation with the capital supplied by investors in all aspect of industry. With the advent of advanced communication by telegraph and telephone came the ability to expand trade internationally… and also intelligence. In 1917, when many countries abroad were already fighting World War I in Europe, America learned through interception of the Zimmerman Telegram that Germany was attempting to influence Mexico to attack the United States and win back the land the US had acquired from them. Coupled with the earlier German bombing of British passenger ship, the Lusitania, where 128 Americans and in total 1,198 passengers and crew were killed en route to England from New York, the last straw was broken and America was forced to go to war.
U.S. involvement in WWI lasted less than two years and when the soldiers came home, America found itself still prosperous from increased wartime production. Times were good until continued overproduction forced farms, still employing about half of American workers, to lower prices which caused the need to buy more equipment and land to make up for the loss. In a vicious cycle, debts from the increased spending overtook the agriculture industry and many owners lost their farms completely.
With the newly unemployed farmers now moving in droves to cities around the country in search of work, the advent of Prohibition and the gangster era, as well as riots caused by the WWI veterans’ march on Washington to demand an ill-fated service bonus, the country found itself steeped in turmoil and unrest. American banks were victims of numerous gang robberies and bank failures became widespread. People grew poorer, unemployment levels rose, and spending screeched to a halt. All of this would lead to the collapse of Wall Street.
The Great Depression was a pitiful time for America. Nine thousand banks failed during the months following the stock market crash of 1929. Over the course of ten years, the United States fell under the deepest and longest lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world. Persistent layoffs caused around 14 million Americans to become unemployed. Bread lines, soup kitchens, homelessness, and poverty became the norm. America needed saving and only one man could lead the way…FDR.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the governor of New York was elected President of the United States in 1932 and immediately acted to restore consumer confidence via bank reforms and his series of thirty evening radio broadcasts known as “fireside chats”. Through domestic programs enacted under The New Deal, FDR promised America relief, recovery, and reform to turn the Great Depression on its heels and prevent recession from taking hold again.
Some of the most historically significant New Deal reformations occurred between 1935 and 1938. The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious of the programs, creating jobs for over 8 million unemployed who were hired to complete public works projects such as construction of buildings, roads and highways, hospitals, schools, and parks and consequently made the federal government the largest employer in the nation.
The Wagner Act provided those employed in the private sector with basic rights and protections, including the right to form into trade unions and engage in collective bargaining for better terms and working conditions, and the right to strike when workers needs were not being met. Collective bargaining was formed as a tool to protect private sector workers’ rights, yet the unions remained organically limited in the scope of their bargaining power. Ask for too much, and the company goes under and all the workers are out of jobs – a natural check and balance.
Though the origins of the labor movement lay in the formative years of American history, with the earliest recorded workers’ strike occurring in 1768, more than 150 years passed until formal labor regulations under FDR’s sweeping New Deal policies were enacted. Where there were once only limited workplace safety laws and few restraints on employers regarding working conditions, unions achieved a remarkable number of rights and freedoms for employees who were completely unrepresented.
The U.S. finally reached a turning point on December 8, 1941. The day after Japan’s bombing of the naval base at Pearl Harbor; FDR declared war on Japan and entered World War II. Massive wartime spending doubled the Gross National Product and the U.S. reached full employment. Even women went to work in factories, where good-paying jobs helped support their families while millions of American men went to fight overseas.
By the end of WWII, more than 12 million workers belonged to unions, and collective bargaining became one of the most powerful tools in the industrial economy. In 1955, the formation of the AFL-CIO led to unprecedented gains for union workers’ job security against ageism, illness, unemployment, and unfair treatment in the workplace. Then during the Civil Rights movement, the AFL-CIO helped eliminate racial discrimination and segregation across the country. Even in the 1980’s and in recent years, labor unions have pushed for and succeeded in gaining at least basic rights for domestic and migrant workers as well as for the LGBT community regarding discrimination in the workplace.
While the principles by which labor unions were founded remain integral to society as we know it, unions themselves have transformed from their pure, uncomplicated, socially supportive roots to become much more politically motivated. Over time, as lack of need for union representation has caused union membership to dwindle in America (and elsewhere around the world), labor organizations have become more explicitly involved in politics. Super PACs, which can be legally funded by unions, advocate for the election or defeat of candidates for federal office by purchasing television, radio, and print advertisements and other media. In fact, there’s really no limitation on who can contribute or how much.
Federal Election Commission guidelines say that the only major restriction for Super PACs is their inability to work directly in conjunction with the candidates they support. Critics say, though, that Super PACs only opened the floodgates for corruption even wider, noting a famous Lord Acton quote: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Legendary Rutgers economics professor, Leo Troy, released a study in 1996 which estimated that union political expenditures were upwards of $500 million for each election cycle. Eight years later, in 2004, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found that the figure reached $925 million and in 2012 was right around $620 million. The Center for Responsive Politics tells us that eight of the top ten all-time political contributors are labor unions and common sense tells us that labor unions contributing to Super PACs are not doing it just for kicks…buying politicians is no inexpensive feat.
Interestingly, it is now legal for certain federal employees to utilize collective bargaining tactics to garner increased wages, vacation time, and benefits. Public unions are not limited by the same checks and balances as private sector unions because the ones footing the bill are the taxpayers not the government employer or a private company. This provides little incentive for public sector unions to scale back demands…and let’s face it; without government employees, wouldn’t much of America come to a standstill?
Furthermore, reports of violence and intimidation tactics along with charges of embezzlement and fraud are common headlines in the National Legal and Policy Center’s twice-monthly guide loaded with examples of union corruption in almost every industry. From small time theft to widespread racketeering, labor leaders continue to violate the trust of members they claim to represent. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards has investigated and prosecuted union leaders for embezzling more than $100 million in union dues since 2001 which has resulted in over $1 billion in fines, restitutions, and forfeitures. Yet for all the hundreds of indictments and convictions on record, we can only imagine how many more continue to go undetected even today. Greed, corruption, and power struggles now seem to go hand in hand with union representation.
Sadly, the worst offenders in America are teachers’ unions. The National Education Association (the largest professional union in the U.S.) and the American Federation of Teachers are two of the most organized, powerful voices in our country today. Yet for all their protesting and demonstrating for higher pay, more time off, and valuable benefits they forgot one thing…our students. Test scores nationwide show that students are performing at levels far below their overseas peers and graduation rates are well below those in other countries.
Still, every few years it’s the same song and dance. The unions cry out for their underfunded education programs; blaming them for our students’ alarming failure rate so the government steps in, pouring money into the education system like a waterfall, but the end result is always the same…little to no improvement. Why? Because all of our numerous tax hikes have given great pay raises to even the worst of the worst teachers who are protected from job loss by powerful union leaders instead of supporting our children’s education. A few years later, once people forget the last education spending spree, the process repeats itself over again. If any system in America needs to be reformed NOW it’s America’s education system; first stop – teachers’ unions.
Fortunately, in liberal market economies such as in the United States, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Japan, and the UK, union coverage and membership in most industries has sharply declined since unions are incompatible with increasingly globalized, high-tech, service driven economies. They over-emphasize weak legal protections for the right to organize and focus too much on servicing existing members rather than recruiting and organizing new ones. The introduction of “right-to-work” laws in the U.S. have removed the requirement for people to pay unions to work at unionized companies, effectively decreasing union funding and making it less likely for workers to choose union membership. In America, only 11.3% of workers are union members, down from 20.1% in the mid-1980s.
We The People believes that by de-unionizing America’s workforce and doing away with outdated labor practices, private companies can become more competitive in today’s world marketplace. Practically speaking, unions are not only riddled with corruption but also decrease productivity and profitability as well as undermine employer/employee relations, forcing each to pick “sides” rather than focus on teamwork. History shows that labor unions have caused economic disaster for many corporations such as General Motors; forced to payout huge legacy healthcare and pension benefits to employees under union-negotiated contracts, which ultimately caused its bankruptcy.
De-unionizing America and doing away with corrupt union leaders will bring freedom of choice and job availability back to Americans and give democracy back to the people. Political corruption, bankruptcy, and racketeering – is that a legacy we want for America? I think not.
For more information on labor laws and union statistics here and around the world, you can visit the International Labor Organization’s website at: http://www.ilo.org/ifpdial/information-resources/dialogue-data/lang–en/index.htm.
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