Where Are America’s Unions?
Once upon a time, America’s labor unions were the stalwart defenders of the nation’s working and middle classes, fighting tirelessly for higher wages, improved working conditions, and, in general, a better deal from employers.
While some libertarian theorists who worship an unvarnished and unrestrained free market have always condemned unions, sensible analysts of American history would agree that they have played an important and usually positive role in strengthening the standard of living of Americans who work with their hands. Obviously, there have also been enormous abuses on the part of Big Labor and the labor bosses, from rampant corruption in the Teamsters Union to ridiculously excessive wage demands by the UAW which helped make the American automobile industry less competitive with our foreign trade partners, like Japan and Germany.
When we think of the late 19th-century and early 2oth-century labor leaders like Samuel Gompers and John L. Lewis, we also think of patriotic Americans who loved their country and its people. These men were not socialists but were simply fighting to ensure that the workers got their fair share of the economic pie. Obviously, capitalism has historically had its rough edges and working conditions and wages were often unacceptable from the standpoint of basic human dignity. No one would seriously argue for child labor today or argue against safety standards in coal mines or steel mills. Nor would many object to the right of workers to strike unless such a strike violates existing laws or poses a threat to public safety ( i.e. police strikes ).
Even more contemporary labor barons like the AFL-CIO’s longtime, cigar-chomping boss George Meany could hardly be called radicals. To the contrary, Meany – who led the union from the 1950s until 1980 – was strongly anti-Communist, a supporter of the Vietnam War, and opposed to Jimmy Carter’s recognition of Communist China in 1978. Meany stood for American workers which meant opposing the importation of cheap foreign labor or, worse, slave labor from the Communist bloc. The Teamsters Union also had a strong history of supporting Republicans, including Richard Nixon in 1972 and it was the so-called unionized flag-waving “hard hats” who mobilized to support Nixon’s Vietnam policies and oppose the radical left-wing anti-war demonstrators.
Of course, for every George Meany and Frank Fitzsimmons, there were also the more left-wing union bosses like Harry Bridges of the Longshoremen’s Union who was an identified Communist and William Winpisinger of the Machinists’ Union. There was also Cesar Chavez of the United Farmworker’s Union who – while a disciple of Saul Alinsky and the cause of social revolution — tempered his left-wing leanings with virulent hostility to illegal immigration which he rightly saw as a method employers used to hold down the wages of native farmworkers.
The tragedy of the last thirty or so years in America’s labor movement is that it has all but ceased to exist. As trade deals like NAFTA and MFN for Communist China began the process of dismantling America’s manufacturing industries and relocating them abroad, there was hardly a peep from Big Labor. While it is true that the unions mostly opposed ratification of NAFTA in 1993, their increasing alignment with the Democrat Party ( then holding the presidency with Bill Clinton ) largely neutered the potency of that opposition. There is little doubt that if Big Labor really wanted to stop NAFTA it could have. Likewise, as one Congress after another continued granting Communist China Most Favored Nation trade status, the unions sat on their hands. 60,000 factories closed and millions of high-wage jobs vanished and the union bosses sat on the sidelines and let it happen.
Of course, as the manufacturing jobs evaporated, the power of the old trade unions like the Auto Workers and Steel Workers weakened in favor of the public employee unions which are not threatened by the loss of Rust Belt jobs or uncontrolled immigration. The public employees represent the teachers, cops, firefighters and government workers whose jobs are not the ones most likely to be gobbled up by illegal immigrants crossing the border. In fact, many of the laid-off manufacturing workers wound up finding jobs in government!
Liberals like to claim that Ronald Reagan crushed the power of organized labor in 1981 when he fired the air traffic controllers over an illegal strike. That is hardly the case. Reagan himself was a life-long union member and never a strong supporter of “right to work” laws. Instead, the clout and credibility of organized labor was crushed by their own sellout leadership, exemplified by the AFL-CIO’s current president Richard Trumka. While paying lip-service to the rights of workers, these present-day labor leaders would make John L. Lewis and George Meany turn over in their graves. Individuals like Trumka are simply Democrat Party hacks who draw big paychecks and do nothing but shovel their membership’s dues payments into the coffers of Democrat politicians who believe in open borders and free trade. It is simply disgraceful. With union bosses like Trumka, union members would be better off negotiating directly with the companies.
Where was the AFL-CIO when 3.4 million American jobs were lost between 2001 and 2017? Where was the AFL-CIO when wages remained stagnant for over twenty years? Where was the AFL-CIO when the Rust Belt became the Dust Belt and company towns became ghost towns? Sadly, the leadership was busy schmoozing with the Democrat politicians in Washington and securing invitations to the right Georgetown dinner parties, all while sacrificing the interests of the people they were supposed to represent.
Big Labor is a bought and paid-for appendage of the Democrat Party, as much responsible for the hollowing out of the American middle class as any other entity. It’s time patriotic working men and women divorce themselves from these so-called leaders and start forming their own unions that will put America and American workers first.
Dr. James Veltmeyer is a prominent La Jolla physician voted “Top Doctor” in San Diego County in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Dr. Veltmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by visiting his website at drveltmeyer.com
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