While we are thinking about Unions…Look at all we’ve forgotten (I don’t think Scott Walker ever knew)…
PBS is running a new American Experience documentary this evening on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City in 1911. It is an interesting and historically powerful story of the beginnings of the American Union movement… the conflict between the rich and the poor… and the use of strikes to get Union-only shops in the garment industry.
The fact that Triangle workers got some concessions in 1909 and 1910 in terms of wages and shift times, there was no change in working conditions and no collective bargaining. When the Triangle fire occurred in 1911, the ladies who worked there were inside locked doors (to keep workers from sneaking out with product when managers weren’t looking.) The 200 sewing machine workers were not alerted to the fire which began on the floor below… they were trapped. Some died in the fire… some jumped from windows, very few made it to a back alley fire escape. Many were trapped on an elevator that jammed after the first trip.
Labor was not considered the equal to management… but without that labor, the garment manufacturers would not have become wealthy. Isn’t it similar to how the citizens of Wisconsin benefit from Public Employees… teachers, firefighters, police, EMTs? While we don’t have the devastating tragedy of the Shirtwaist Fire in Wisconsin, we have people who are accused of being at fault due to their pension fund contributions…their own money…for the dismal economy. Not the bankers who overmortgaged and blew out the economy. Not the politicians who made sure the rich were not taxed on their incomes so that they could invest in those banks and stock brokerages that literally stole money from the pension funds of laborers.
In the 100 years since the Shirtwaist Fire and the major changes in Union organization and management/labor relationships it brought, we have forgotten the importance of workers and, as has been a conventional attitude of politicians from the right wing who oppose Unionism and negotiations, we are further away from the management changes that occurred over the next 4 decades.
We are back where we started from.
Just by insisting that he will not negotiate with the Public Employee unions, Governor Walker might as well be saying “your lives are meaningless.” Even when the employees WANT to take pay reductions and are willing to cooperate… but want collective bargaining, the thing that has made America from FDR to the present the symbol of the middle class glory, to remain a union option.
Just watching all this tonight has gotten my hackles up… I hope it has gotten to you, too.
- “Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: Some basic information” and related posts (theboweryboys.blogspot.com)
- Television Review: Two Remembrances of One Deadly Day in 1911 (tv.nytimes.com)
- Identifying the victims of a 100-year-old tragedy (boingboing.net)
- You: 100 Years Later, the Roll of the Dead in a Factory Fire Is Complete (nytimes.com)
- ‘American Experience’ looks at the 1911 Triangle fire (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- 100 Years Later, the Last Victims are Identified (neatorama.com)
- People@Work: Wisconsin Picks the Wrong Scapegoat for Its Budget Woes (dailyfinance.com)
- The Week Ahead: Feb. 27 – Mar. 5 (nytimes.com)
As of this morning it seems that Obama is ready to deal with the Right… extend the Bush tax cuts for a couple of years in exchange for one year’s extension of Unemployment funding. The tax cut deal is tentative. It hasn’t gone through Congress yet (although McConnell is probably dribbling with laughter in his office), but it probably will.
When even Conservatives like Joe Scarborough sees and comments on the fact that Obama is moving directly to the Right…
which will not increase job creation much, but will add at least a trillion new bucks to the deficit…we know it’s a lot of money. And who is going to lend it to us? The Chinese? Are we going to listen to Obama’s financial team that extending tax cuts are going to get us out of recession?
And now we won’t be able to blame this crap on Bush anymore. Obama owns it and is most likely making himself a one-term President. And a lot of very unhappy Democrats like me will probably help him to become a one-termer. As Joe Scarborough just said: “At least they can’t call him a Socialist any more.”
I think it is up to Nancy Pelosi (certainly not Harry Reid) to try to hold this arrangement off… and, as I have said before, it would be better to have this whole arrangement with the Right flushed down the toilet and get NO tax cut extensions for ANYONE, than to do anything like what is coming out of the White House. (Steny Hoyer, however, will go along with it… miserable power seeker… and will undermine Pelosi.)
So now we have to pay for increased troops in Afghanistan where we are getting nowhere even faster than before, we have to suffer increasing rather than decreasing unemployment making our tax revenues even lower, and we can look forward to a GOP-controlled future… amazing with a Democratic White House and Senate… which will take us further from the America that was built by generations of progressive leaders from Roosevelt (FDR) through Johnson.
If the Tea Party takeover has taught us anything, it is that we need a new grass-roots progressive movement. And we have to push from the ground up. It’s going to take 30 years.
I should have linked you to this article on Ramona’s Voices a week ago…Ramona has put together a great summary of where we are with the unemployment problem, and has put together the obvious solution… and backed it up with a number of links.
Here’s the beginning of her article:
The consensus, no matter who says it and why, is that American manufacturing industries are no longer of Americans, by Americans, or even for Americans. It’s beyond a worrisome rumor, it’s an established fact: American manufacturing, compared to manufacturing world-wide, fills a niche no bigger than the size of an ant farm box.
Let’s face it, the people in charge of keeping Americans working are not just incompetent or oblivious, they’re the next best thing to the enemy. The public sector is beyond just aiding and abetting the private sector, they’re right down in the trenches with them. Such a cacophony from Big Money, from the Right Wing, from the keepers of the status quo. Who could blame the people in charge for lending them an ear?
You kidding? We could! We should! A whole lot of us DO!
You can go in and read the fest HERE.
And let’s consider the real solution here… taxing the rich and creating jobs through social problems, a la FDR. One more selection:
Oh, and by the way: We need to tax the hell out of the filthy rich and make them pay. Then we need to spend what they’re forced to fork over on social programs and American outlets for gainful employment.
Tax and spend, that’s the ticket. (Note that I can say that without even once gagging or flinching.)
Thanks, Ramona… I certainly agree with you.
When FDR said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” he could have been summing up what faces Americans today. The TV news networks are all pushing interviews with Senators and Congressmen (mostly Republicans) who tell us that the Christmas Eve flight bombing attempt, the shutting down of our Yemen Embassy (apparently not abandoned by cut off from any visitors), the killing of CIA people in Pakistan and other events and rumors of events are reasons not to close Gitmo and to increase military presence in…gosh, how many countries?…Yemen and other spots.
After watching all of the Adam Curtis documentary I put up yesterday it is clear that we are being sold nightmares to get us all riled up over uncountable numbers of Al Q’aeda operatives (of which there are probably very few.)
If we can avoid succumbing to fear and realize that these are political moves to keep us in our middle-class constraints, perhaps we can focus back on curing what’s wrong with our economy, our health care system, and so many other things.
We need to GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST. Period. We cannot afford to be the world’s bodyguard and we must realize that not everyone wants to be like us. If the do, they will pull it off themselves in an overwhelming manner (it’s about to happen in Iran without any of our help… just watch.)
I like Paul Krugmann… most of the readers here know that. Here’s a statement he made on the Bill Maher show:
“On bad mornings I wake up and think that we are turning into a Latin American country. But on good mornings I think, well this is America, we have always in the past managed to turn ourselves around, and there is an FDR just around the corner if we could only find him. I was kind of hoping Obama might be FDR, but maybe not. “
Well, that’s where he sees the American Dream. Frankly, if Obama is not the FDR we need, I’m not sure where such a person is coming from.
Maybe Obama will change and be that guy we need. Maybe.
“Democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of [corporate] power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism — ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. Democracy is not safe if its business system cannot provide employment, and produce and distribute goods in such a way, as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.”
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in “Recommendations to the Congress to Curb Monopolies and the Concentration of Economic Power”