A stronger union

norma-tae Let’s talk about unions for a second. As a person who writes about media, I’m no expert on unions. But in the past week, I saw two articles that are interrelated—both reported by two local media outlets in two different states. You might have missed them, because as far as I can tell they didn’t garner much national attention.

The first headline is: Missouri Gov. Greitens signs right-to-work legislation

The second headline is: GM earns $9.43 billion in 2016; UAW workers get record profit sharing

So-called right-to-work laws basically strip labor unions of their powers. Those powers usually include worker benefits, profit sharing and wages that keep up with the rise of the cost of living.

Now, I say “so-called” because who doesn’t agree with a right to work? By God, that’s our due as Americans, to have a right to work!

But “right to work” is a misnomer. It’s a misdirection in the way that the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and the National Center for Policy Analysis are. Who doesn’t want research and analysis of policy?

But when that “research” concludes that a five-cent plastic bag charge that seeks to help the environment (and save the city money) is “a radical scheme to harm New Yorkers,” well, one wonders. And when that “policy” includes congratulating a racist for becoming the attorney general of the United States while simultaneously coopting a hashtag that developed organically in support of opposition Senator Elizabeth Warren, one wonders.

Which leads us to “right to work,” which actually means something along the lines of “makes it more difficult to be protected as a worker.” It means, “It’s good for the bottom line of businesses but not for the pockets of workers.” It means, “Defunding and defanging unions that fight for workers.”

Missouri is the 28th state to adopt this type of law. Meaning more than half the states in our union have such laws. Meaning that Republicans’ strategy of picking off individual liberties state by state, bit by bit, law by law, district by gerrymandered district, has worked. (It has a corollary in a slew of restrictive and vile state abortion laws, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

Said the governor of Missouri, “For too long in the state of Missouri, for too long people bowed down to intimidation, they bowed down to powerful union bosses who acted to protect their own interests instead of protecting the interest of Missouri workers.”

I’m sad to report that the era of “post-truth” and “alternative facts” has fully taken root when unions are said not to protect workers but instead “intimidate” them. This is not unlike the lies about the inner-city wasteland dystopia that is Chicago—you know how those “inner cities” are, filled with crime and devastation and, well, nonwhite people all on welfare.

These types of lies caused the rise of Trump et al. in the first place. We are seeing the results of the hard work of the Republicans for the past quarter-century, if not longer. They convince poor people that a corporate fat cat has their best interests at heart; that laws that protect them from being poisoned by the water supply are just “a thinly veiled attempt to wipe out coal mining jobs”; that the unions that protect them are actually harming them.

So now for the other piece of news you may have missed. It’s related to the fallacy above.

Last year, GM earned a record $12 billion. That company’s union-sanctioned profit-sharing formula, part of a union-negotiated contract, stipulates that UAW workers receive about $1,000 in profit sharing for every $1 billion in profit.

“Today’s performance bonus announcement of a maximum of $12,000 each rewards our members’ dedication and commitment to building some of the most popular and high-quality vehicles in the world,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada. “They deserve every penny of that collectively bargained bonus check.”

Now, fair is fair. The article reports that “Workers received zero money in profit sharing from 2005-09 when the automaker was struggling.” But since then? $9K apiece in 2014 and $11K each in 2015. Does that seem like a lack of worker protections?

By the way: That’s just at GM. Ford’s “UAW-represented workers will receive $9,000 on average in profit-sharing checks before taxes thanks to a near-record profit for the automaker.” And “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said last month that UAW-represented workers will receive, on average, a $5,000 profit sharing check for 2016, or about $1,000 more than they did last year.”

So first, let’s cut the shit. The shit peddled by Republican, pro-business, richly paid CEOs who get stock grants and bonuses while regular workers get screwed. You want to know why we have the highest GDP of all time but suffer from economic stagnation? Just ask the “right to work” hawks.

Second, let’s hear it for the local media, in this case in St. Louis and Detroit, that are doing the work of documenting the day-in, day-out lives of Americans.

Third, the national media are working their butts off with no resources, skeleton staffs, closed bureaus and too many stories to tell.

But. But, but. Anyone could easily have found these stories. I’m not Carnac the Magnificent here (millennials, it was a Johnny Carson sketch).

So reliable mainstream media, I’m begging you: Make the connections. Tell the stories of Americans, not businesses. These laws, this administration, these governors and congressional representatives, these bullshit salesmen are bringing this country to the brink.

Or, as a matter of fact, maybe you should start believing your own bullshit: Let’s make America great again. Let’s start by bringing back unions.

Read More