Workers in the private sector had used the strike as a tool of leverage in labor-management conflicts between World War II and 1981, repeatedly withholding their work to win fairer treatment from recalcitrant employers. But after Patco, that weapon was largely lost. Reagan’s unprecedented dismissal of skilled strikers encouraged private employers to do likewise. Phelps Dodge and International Paper were among the companies that imitated Reagan by replacing strikers rather than negotiating with them. Many other employers followed suit.
By 2010, the number of workers participating in walkouts was less than 2 percent of what it had been when Reagan led the actors’ strike in 1952. Lacking the leverage that strikes once provided, unions have been unable to pressure employers to increase wages as productivity rises. Inequality has ballooned to a level not seen since Reagan’s boyhood in the 1920s.
The rabid anti-union, anti-worker stance of some of today’s conservative governors and legislators makes Reagan’s position on workers’ rights seem downright nuanced.
In the spring, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin invoked Reagan’s handling of Patco as he prepared to “change history” by stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights in a party-line vote. “I’m not negotiating,” Mr. Walker said. By then the world had seemingly forgotten that unlike Mr. Walker, Reagan had not challenged public employees’ right to bargain — only their right to strike.
With Mr. Walker’s militant anti-union views now ascendant within the party of a onetime union leader, with workers less able to defend their interests in the workplace than at any time since the Depression, the long-term consequences continue to unfold in ways Reagan himself could not have predicted — producing outcomes for which he never advocated.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be in NYC today to speak at a GOP fundraiser, and DC 37 plans to welcome him in style:
Let’s welcome Governor Walker to New York the way that only New York can!
Join your sisters and brothers in welcoming Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to New York City! He’ll be in town to keynote a fundraiser for the Republican Party – let’s let him know he’s truly welcome in this proud union town. Wear your union colors and join us.
Tuesday, June 28 4 p.m. Grand Army Plaza Park
5th Avenue between 58th and 60th Streets
(Across the street from the Sherry Netherland Hotel)
The Metro New York Labor Communications Council is having its annual convention on June 17, and the lineup is excellent. The morning panel on Framing the Public Sector will include PSC/CUNY President Barbara Bowen, AFSCME Public Affairs director Chris Policano, FAIR Program director Janine Jackson, Bill Hohlfeld of Ironworkers Local 46, and Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW! The Distinguished Labor Communicator Award will go to Frances Fox Piven.
At a rally and march in Lower Manhattan, thousands of UFT members on May 12 unleashed their anger at Mayor Bloomberg for threatening to lay off teachers when the city has a $3.2 billion surplus and Wall Street has not been asked to pay its share.
Recently, we received an odd comment to a February 22 post on a rally supporting Wisconsin unions:
I met some wonderful Socialists and Communists at this rally…so good that Teachers can stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in social justice! Cant wait for the next one!
It is unusual to receive comments more than a month after a post was published, and the message was a bit bizarre, so we googled the email of the person who left it. It turns out that email@example.com was one of the emails used in the smear of Shirley Sherrod, the civil rights movement veteran and former USDA official who had her speech to the NAACP edited to misrepresent her as a racist.
Whatever your real name is, Bona1173, your schtick is really old.
Forty-three years ago my father, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated while he was in Memphis, Tenn., supporting a strike of municipal sanitation workers. It was, in his eyes, more than a quest for a few more dollars in a paycheck. He saw the strike as part of the great struggle of his time—a struggle for democracy, for truth, for justice and for human dignity.
These are the same basic reasons that my father would be joining with millions of other Americans today in supporting public employees in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states, where collective bargaining is now under attack.
Today is the forty-third anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was struck down as he provided support to the struggle of Memphis sanitation workers, largely African-American, to unionize. In honor of King’s last civil rights struggle, labor unions across the United States will be engaged in a day of demonstrations and actions. Here in New York City, the UFT is hosting a candle light vigil in Battery Park at 7 PM.
The AFL-CIO has a website, We Are One, which reports on all of the actions across the United States.
International unions are sending messages of solidarity with American workers, as we fight to preserve the right to unionize and organize which King supported. See all of the statements, including the Egyptian and Iraqi labor federations, at the bottom of this page.
“The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.” — Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., October 1965
Join us in Battery Park on Monday, April 4, 7 p.m., as the UFT hosts a candlelight vigil honoring the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. It was on April 4, 1968 that Dr. King, who was in Memphis to lead a protest march in support of striking sanitation workers, was assassinated.
This rally is just one part of a national mobilization by organized labor to mark that anniversary with marches, rallies and other activities, as well as to support workers all across the United States who are fighting for jobs and economic justice.
Take the AFT’s “We Are One” pledge, which includes suggestions for ways you can show your solidarity. As AFT President Randi Weingarten has said, our challenge is to take this moment and turn it into a movement.
A matter of months into the terms of office of various far right governors and legislatures supported by the Tea Party crowd, and the beginnings of a new “know nothing” cultural movement has begun to take shape.
Tea Party Governor Paul LePage has had a mural of Maine’s labor history removed from the state’s Department of Labor building, on the grounds that it might make businessman uncomfortable to see the events portrayed. (The full mural, part of which is reproduced here, is now the banner on the web page of the Maine Democratic Party.) Maine businessmen are apparently such a sensitive bunch that LePage also felt the need to erase the names of labor leaders, from Frances Perkins to Cesar Chavez, from meeting rooms in the building. While deeply concerned about the tender feelings of Maine’s fledgling bourgeoisie, LePage refused to attend Martin Luther King Day celebrations, and said of the Maine NAACP, “they can kiss my ass.”
At the blog of the New York Review of Books, noted author Gary Wills compares the removal of the labor mural to the infamous destruction of a mural painted for New York City’s Rockefeller Center by renowned modernist Diego Rivera, after John D. and Nelson Rockefeller took offense at the inclusion of a cameo portrait of Lenin in the painting.
At the same time, Steve Greenhouse reports in the New York Times that right wing foundations have filed Freedom of Information inquiries into the email accounts of labor friendly academics working at state universities in Wisconsin and Michigan. Greg Scholtz, the director of academic freedom for the American Association of University Professors, told the Times: “We think all this will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. We’ve never seen FOIA requests used like this before.”
Is it any surprise that in state after state, including Maine, these Tea Party partisans are seeking to overturn protections against child labor laws?
On the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, hear from a Walmart retail worker, a warehouse worker, and a Bangladeshi garment worker. “Sweatshop, Warehouse, Wamart: A Worker Truth Tour” aims to raise awareness about the system created by Walmart that keeps workers in a cycle of low wages, with no voice on the job, and working in dangerous conditions.
Thursday, March 31, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
New York University, Philosophy Building – 1st Floor Auditorium
5 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003 Download the flier RSVP on Facebook
Featured speakers: Aleya Akter, garment worker in Bangladesh Kalpona Akter, former child garment worker, Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity Robert Hines, warehouse worker in Chicago Cynthia Murray, Walmart associate in Laurel, Maryland
The tour is sponsored by Making Change at Walmart (a campaign of the United Food and Commercial Workers), International Labor Rights Forum, Jobs with Justice, SweatFree Communities, and United Students Against Sweatshops.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, SEIU’s new media team produced an interactive piece illustrating some of the victories around working conditions and building codes that labor fought for over the past century.