Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Labor Unashamedly Rated as Just Another
By Ben Tanosborn
ccun.org, September 7, 2009
Another first Monday in September to signal the end of summer
for most everyone here in the United States; while for a small minority of
Americans, Labor Day continues to mark the annual set-aside time to pay
tribute to the working men and women in the labor movement who so bravely
fought to bring a measure of economic and social justice not just for the
union rank and file, but for the rest of us who parasitically have benefited
from their struggle.
As with other events in history which
show duplicity in purpose, official establishment of a day to honor the
contributions of working men and women to America’s way of life was signed
into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1894; such enactment perhaps no
more than a peace offering to labor in anticipation of congressional (1894)
and presidential (1896) elections. Cleveland’s signing taking place a year
after he had dispatched 12,000 federal troops and deputy marshals to
Illinois to squelch a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company… where
strikers’ blood was mortally shed.
Our government, no matter
whether headed by Republicans or by Democrats, is quick to remind us that
Labor Day is not about labor unions, but only the “rootless” social and
economic achievements of American workers as individuals… rarely as a group
(trade unions), and never as a class (workers’ movement) . That is why
America sets itself apart from much of the world that celebrates May 1,
International Workers’ Day – the real Labor Day… as if the US did not have
workers, only people who work. Let Europe, China and the rest of the
world have their day, preferring to call their own American workers, as a
group, the blue-collar middle class. Americans are constantly being
asked to take pride in their Apartheidland, as the nation segregates itself
from all those “viral ideologies,” the isms which are prevalent elsewhere in
Is the “working class” another pejorative component of
todays America? All indications seem to lead us to such a conclusion.
It was my good luck in graduate school to have a professor in
labor-related studies whose doctoral dissertation at UC Berkeley had Jimmy
Hoffa as principal subject. He knew the Teamsters’ leader well, on a
personal level, and had a never-ending and most evocative collection of
vignettes on his life; but more importantly, it was our esteemed professor’s
narrative eloquence that we loved, as he paid tribute to Mr. Hoffa, not just
as a remarkable leader, but as a greater authority on Transportation
Economics than most specialized PhD-economists in the field; something
particularly remarkable given this controversial labor figure came from the
rank and file and lacked formal education.
Perhaps what was salient
with both our professor and his presentation of the subject matter – labor
law and labor relations – was his contrast to the contemptible way in which
the labor movement was being portrayed then – as it is now – in the nation’s
business schools; aggravated in this particular case by the fact Jimmy Hoffa
was then serving a 15-year prison sentence for attempted bribery of a grand
juror. [He would be released from prison by President Nixon three
years later (1971); then disappeared (1975) to add to the folklore of union
bosses and mafia dons].
An unusual and refreshing approach so
contrary to the pejorative treatment of the labor movement!
Nonetheless, this professor was just a distant, small point of light in an
otherwise dark universe of higher studies which prepared the new
MBA-centurions to carry on with the capitalist mission after being assigned
to the many global legions representing International Wealth.
my training days as a centurion for the capitalist cause, I have seen union
labor in the United States decrease from almost 30 percent of the labor
force to less than 13 percent today… and that decrease has been followed, if
to a much lesser degree, by other industrialized nations, except for some
northern European countries that continue to maintain a social soul.
As globalization took deep roots in the last two decades, the labor movement
in the first world ceased to move forward, doing it only in retreat.
And, very appropriately to the transformation taking place, the “personnel
department” became, what else… but the “human resources department.”
To our shame here in America, corporations maintain the legal rights of the
individual – while yielding enormous influence via their wealth and power –
yet, the worker has been relegated to be just another resource… less
valuable than materials, far less valuable than technology, and
thousands-fold less valuable than the top management in charge. So
much for what we think of labor in these United States of America!
Monday, here in America, we are celebrating the end of summer… and in this
recession year, also the sad realization that America is no longer the
vibrant nation that it was when labor had a voice, if small, as to how the
nation should be ran.