Happy Labor Day?

In Sunday’s Oregonian, right-wing affirmative action hire Elizabeth Hovde celebrated Labor Day a day early by calling for Oregon to become a “Right to Work” state.  Seriously.  Like other righty martinets polluting op/ed pages from coast to coast, her arguments weren’t just based on shaky facts, they were the exact opposite of the truth.  Quoting the sleazy, corporate-funded Cascade Policy Institute, a local wingnut welfare outfit previously dedicated to opposing mass transit and land use laws, she guilelessly typed, in her trademark ninth-grade prose, that wages and standards of living were higher in RTW states.

Now, if Hovde were inclined to look at any actual, uh, statistics on her subject, rather than mindlessly parroting mendacious propaganda from a single, compromised source, she might have hedged a little before waxing rhapsodic about the the glorious prosperity of, say, Mississippi, but perhaps taking a cue from George Will, she simply based her arguments on lies.  (In the same issue, Will blamed the UAW for GM’s near-demise….) Whether this suburban halfwit really believes such errant nonsense is immaterial; the fact that she had the guts to write it, and the editors allowed it to be printed on Labor Day Weekend, is as depressing as it is infuriating.

The actual facts?  RTW states are dead last in per capita income, near the bottom in education levels, and persistently suffer from stagnant levels of economic and job growth.  Work-related injuries are higher, and quality of public services lower.  Thus, it ought to take a lot of guts to make such a ridiculous claim, but Hovde (and Will) both made it, proudly.  Happy Labor Day, indeed.

It’s no coincidence that the decline of unionization over the past 40 years has exactly tracked the parallel decline of middle-class wages, the disappearance of pensions, the increasing numbers of those who lack health insurance, skyrocketing executive pay, and vaulting inequality.  Indeed, the very arguments used by RTW propagandists, that unionized teachers and firefighters wages and benefits are “out of step with the private sector” ought to be self-refuting; the very reason public sector workers enjoy some vestigial semblance of dignity in the workplace is because the private sector has been systematically screwed as it was systematically de-unionized.

But rather than being a clarion call for labor organizing in the private sector, such arguments fall on receptive ears among the increasingly insecure middle class, who demand that public workers be dragged down to their level.   The stunning inability of the general public to add two and two doesn’t just extend to wages and benefits, but to all areas of economic life.

Poor service and low quality goods are another glaring symptom of an economy that no longer works for anyone but the wealthiest; absent union protection (and the upward pressure on non-union working conditions that accompany it), harried, overworked employees are less helpful and knowledgeable, whether you encounter them in a store, office, or airplane.   Goods made in Dickensian sweatshops may cost less in the short run, but end up being as disposable as the people who made them.  In short, the decline of unions hurts everyone except, you guessed it, the people who finance the think tanks and elections.

As I’ve written about before but bears repeating now, a few years ago I was reading an article in the New York Times magazine about the penurious condition of “house museums,” the monuments to Gilded Age wealth that became a feature of America in its middle class heyday.  With attendance declining and maintenance costs increasing, trustees were finding a once-unlikely way out of their predicament, a new breed of plutocrats ready to buy them and move in.  At one antebellum plantation that had recently been sold, the soon-to-be former curator commented wistfully and without a trace of irony, “…and we had just finished restoring the slave quarters.”

No wonder it got snapped up.



  1. michlib says:

    Time for Lewis Powell and St. Ronnie to take a bow. Our dystopian nation will soon only allow unions for CEOs and privateers. At least the Robber Barons left railroads, libraries, hospitals, parks and the like in their wake. These new masters seem intent on leaving utter desolation as their legacy. Once a great nation.

  2. cocktailhag says:

    Yep, and to make matters worse, there wasn’t a single letter to the editor refuting the lying twat.

    • michlib says:

      Read the offending article. Seems she’s upset anyone other than plutocrats would dare band together for political advocacy. Bosses – one voice; us proles – atomized, Galtian ” on your own ship “-ism. I guess be grateful she’s “limited” to Sunday caterwauling. Also note the ubiquitous use of the “taxpayers” moniker in the names of these astroturf groups. Lame – truethfully they should be required to bear the “taxdodgers” brand.

      • cocktailhag says:

        Yeah, but the caterwauling never stops. She’s the WalMart version of the old associate editor (who took a bailout and ran), David Reinhard, but dumber, and assuredly cheaper.
        Heads they win, tails we lose either way.

  3. Ché Pasa says:

    I’ve been fuming all day at the fierce anti-labor rhetoric spewing from so many sources in “honor” of this Uniquely American Holiday, instituted by unanimous consent of both houses of Congress and the President of the USofA, Inc. after doG knows how many Pullman strikers were shot down in the streets in 1894, not a few of them no more than a couple of miles from where I type.

    (Of course they always blame it on the strikers/protesters/whatever “provoking” the violence… )

    My local rag, the McClatchy flagship, today orders unions to “stop the hysteria” over raising the age for retirement, over shipping jobs overseas, and assures public workers that forcing workers to pay part of their retirement funding “isn’t anti-labor.”

    The retirement age should have been lowered long ago, and there shouldn’t even be a consideration of raising it during a recession. Only the Highest of the Mighty are actually living longer once they reach the age of 60; ordinary workers are barely staying even with life expectancy of the ’30′s, ’40′s and ’50′s. (Tangential note: I didn’t go to this year’s high school reunion — the first one I’ve been invited to in umpteen years — because so many of the people I would have wanted to see, in fact all but two, were on the Dead List. It seems like literally half my high school graduating class is dead. And they were (mostly) the Good Ones. A few Bad Ones for spice, but still.)

    Going along with free trade and globalization is supposed to prevent a race to the bottom according to today’s editorial. So workers should sit down and shut up. Ha. Ha. Suckers.

    That is all. Workers may return now to their labors. No strikes, no riots, no violence. Be happy!

    • cocktailhag says:

      Aw, you should have dragged your ass to your reunion; I skipped 10 and 20, but somehow 30 seemed like the right place to start.It was almost disconcertingly fun. As for labor, I am just fucking blown away at how it’s become the new whipping boy of the teabagger set.

      • Ché Pasa says:

        Seeing the Dead List this summer (a list that just keeps growing as news of more of the dead from my graduating class is assembled) was really kind of a shocker. My class wasn’t very big, only about 90, and I swear, more than half of them had passed, and all of the ones I’d call friends were gone but two — one in Seattle who handles PR for the Port (and does musical theater in Tacoma) and the other still here who teaches theater. And here I never thought I’d live past 30. Hmph.

        Harshing on Labor has got to be one of the peculiarest things going, but you know, “teachers” have been made into scapegoats forever. Meanwhile, the Nurses can still kick ass when called on. Even sometimes when not!

        • cocktailhag says:

          Well, I wouldn’t have minded if half of my class (380) had kicked the bucket, if I could have picked which ones.
          Since we’re only dealing with 48 year olds, though, that seems unlikely.
          The teacher bashing seems new to me; until we passed a Prop 13- like property tax measure in 1990, Portland never had any trouble passing school levies. It was when funding went statewide and all the timber town rednecks got involved that things started going downhill, but never like this.

  4. mikeinportc says:

    Unionless, free-market paradise is also great for your mental health. ;)


    • RUKidding says:

      Ironic, isn’t it? Those are the people most likely to vote against their own interests and bow & scrape to their economic “betters.” Authoritarianism is very strong and addictive.

  5. RUKidding says:

    I can remember my father bitching about Unions and public sector workers back in the 1950s (and ongoing until his Alzheimers took over). We/he are not wealthy by any stretch. My dad had a very hard-scrabble existence during the “Great” Depression; never got a degree but was able to work up into a mid-level mgmt position by the late 1960s. He earned decent money but not huge bucks. He retired, of course, when private sector jobs still provided pensions (and he still gets it today). He and my mom also used to have retirement health benefits, but those went away about 12 years ago.

    This kind of anti-worker, glorify the bosses/plutocrats has been going on since forever. My father worked in mgmt in the now-former steel industry, so he did have up-close & personal experience with unionized labor. He always hated the Unions; felt that they were corrupt, which was probably true to an extent. And felt that workers – I don’t know – had it “too easy” or something; that they were asking for “too much.”

    We did have some reasonable conversations – back in the day – about worker safety measures largely implemented due to Unions. My dad, back then, could see some value to that, as he witnessed personally at least one person who fell into a steel furnace (can’t imagaine!).

    But, of course, when the steel industry declined, he blamed it solely on unions and the workers. The bosses, of course, were blameless. While my father could be open-minded enough to question some things, he still had a lot of authoritarian black-and-white thinking. Really bought the conservative “view point” that govt was “impinging” on businesses, and that regulations were the bain of private sector and blah blah blah…

    This is just the final nails being pounded into the coffin that contains the precious few rights & safeties for workers across this once-great nation. All gone now. And a lot of it due, sadly, to working folks, like my dad, who drank the Kool Aid and consistently voted against their own interests.

    Sickening but unsurprising article. It’s all the rage these days…

    • cocktailhag says:

      Yeah, last time I had dinner with my Dad and brother (we’re doing it again tonight; it’s the geezer’s 85th birthday…), Dad’s girlfriend (that apple didn’t fall far from the tree) said that American cars were crappy because of, you guessed it, the unions. To my shock, my very liberal brother replied that unions had probably outlived their usefulness. Not wanting to start an argument as I have so many times before, I just let it pass. What is wrong with people?

      • RUKidding says:

        Your brother is just drinking the Kool Aid as well. Doesn’t matter if, like me, you assiduously stay away from most MSM radio/tv, the ideas are out there. I have friends who are IN Unions, who are anti-Union and vote Republican and whine about unions. Go figure.

        I do feel that a lot of Union “leadership” has been and still is corrupt. There’s been some shenanigans at the top. Plus sometimes the Unions have over-stepped the mark and definitely bargained for too much for the workers that was unsustainable in the long run.

        That said, a lot of Unions have stepped up the plate lately and agreed to cut backs and so on to make things operate better in these stressful economic times. Of course, those stories almost *never* make it into the MSM. What citizens hear are mostly about the egregious pensions and benefits of the VERY FEW. These are touted as if *all* union members are getting insanely high (and often, yes, unfair) pensions, when, in fact, the average worker gets not all that much.

        More and more these days, I hear so-called “liberals” whining almost as much about taxes & how they’re spent as my “conservative” friends. We’ve all been carefully taught to be extremely selfish, self-centered, know-nothing jerk-offs in this nation, which is amply reflected by so-called “reality tv.”

        That’s my “take” on what’s wrong with these people. Gordon Gecko should really have said “Being an abject sociopath is GREAT!!!!”

        Hope birthday dinner with geezer went well! Much as it’s painful sometimes, enjoy your time with your elderly dad (the girlfriend may be another matter…).

        • cocktailhag says:

          In my view, nobody put a gun to anyone’s head and made them sign contracts with lush benefits. Most often, it’s executives or school boards kicking the can down the road; no raises in this year’s budget make them look like tough negotiators/good managers. Let somebody else pay the piper.
          I do like my dad, despite the fact that he was a lousy father and a right-winger to boot. (I like the girlfriend, too; she and her husband were close friends of my parents when they were young, and we grew up around them.)
          We had a nice time and an all-American, very expensive steak dinner. I drank good scotch. What’s not to like?

  6. mikeinportc says:

    & the march to the New Feudalism rolls on…..

    I wonder why those uppity Greeks are so pissed. (& will be again) ;)
    Pensions ( as in our Social Security) cut in half already, and now a six day work week*, among other things, what’s next? Signing over your organs, and a % of your first born’s future income?

    * I do that, and more, at times, but not year-round, and not because some foreign banker demands it.

    Happy Birthday to The Geezer. :)

    RE the dead classmates, we’ve been unusually lucky.Out of about 200 (212?), one died , driving stupid , at 16, and the first since , last year, just short of 48. The school embezzled or lost the ~$4000 we saved, so we don’t have reunions. One wit suggested that we do like the old days . Hang out in front of the Red & White ( a small independent grocery still in business) and ask older people to buy beer for us. ;)

  7. cocktailhag says:

    I’m sure the Geez will appreciate your wishes. He seems quite hale and hearty lately, and full of funny lines; asking the waiter, “Got any beer left?” Telling people he’s 39 (with his youngest sons, age 48 and 47), and the usual. We steered clear of politics.
    I guess the best thing about austerity is that it’s turning out to be an object lesson for those who want to try it here….

    • mikeinportc says:

      Re 39 , an S.O.’s father ( unfortunately, now deceased) used to bet waitresses and bartenders that he was good-looking in his younger days, about 15 years earlier [lol!] . ( in his late 60′s at the time ) . After much debate, and theatrics , he would pull out his wallet , and show them his portrait …………… of Don Johnson . :) )))))

  8. dirigo says:

    The GOP rape rhetoric applies to all of us, so bend over and enjoy the Roark.