Li: ritual, propriety, etiquette. Hsiao: love within the family (parents for children and children for parents. Yi: righteousness--the noblest way to act in a situation. Xin: honesty and trustworthiness. Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others. Chung: loyalty to the state and authority. --Confucius (Kong Fuzi)

All articles appear in reverse chronological order [newest first].

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I believe the past is relevant, sometimes more than others of course. In most cases we are seeing history being repeated, so it is most relevant.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Union Values: Made In America

From the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

reposted from July-2010

Dave Johnson writes for the Campaign for America’s Future and adapted this post for us. image

Our country was born out of a fight to cast off colonial rule by a wealthy elite and govern ourselves as We, the People. This fight continues, and nothing more clearly  represents this American effort to lift each other up than organized labor. On July 4, as we celebrate our independence I encourage people to recognize our ongoing battle by buying Made in USA goods, and by working for democracy and the rights of workers everywhere.

I recently bought a hat with “AFL-CIO” written on it. Inside the hat there is a label that reads, “Union Made in the USA.” I was thinking about how unions wouldn’t buy cheap hats made in China or by some nonunion sweatshop, even if it was in the United States. They stick with their values.

There are many examples of unions sticking with their values. Union locals don’t use nonunion print shops—and you might notice that many candidates for office recognize this and use union printers to print their own campaign materials because they know that union members look for this. Union members stick together when other workers are trying to bargain for wages, benefits, rights and respect. People who work directly for unions get good wages and benefits. And union members generally show up and vote for candidates who support broad American values that say “we’re in this together,” rather than the conservative “you’re on your own” philosophy.

This got me thinking about where we are with the economy, following the decrease of union membership and many years of corporate/conservative domination of the “marketplace of ideas.” Decades of this “market” stuff has been driven into our heads, the media is entirely corporate and the corporate media rarely shows someone from labor talking about how joining a union benefits workers or how labor values are good for us. Everything we hear is entirely the conservative/corporate/Wall Street perspective now that we are protected from having to hear other opinions. How has that worked out for all of us?

Let’s look at some of the core values of America’s labor movement, and see how these are standing up to the “stress test” our economy is undergoing.

First, the law. According to the National Labor Relations Board:

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.

This statement reflects American values: Employees and employers, together. Protecting rights. Encouraging collective action: democracy. Promoting the general welfare of workers, businesses and the economy. This is a statement that says promoting democracy, justice and equality boosts all of us, helping us to prosper together.

Please take a moment to read Section 1 of the NLRA. In summary, it says that lack of bargaining power by workers against corporations leads to Depressions (we call them recessions now) because of depressed purchasing power. And it leads to strikes, which disrupt commerce. Therefore, it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining. If you have more time, read through some of the things this law says because you will be shocked at the extent to which our government now ignores its own laws, acting in a one-sided way allowing businesses to fire organizers and intimidate workers but doing so little for working people. How has that worked out for us?

Take a look at the AFL-CIO mission statement:

The mission of the AFL-CIO is to improve the lives of working families—to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation.

This doesn’t say they do this for AFL-CIO members only, it says they do this for all of us. How would sticking with values like these be working out for us?

Union values: To improve lives. Social justice. Dignity. Just and humane. Security. People in unions believe things like: Solidarity: Stick together. Protect jobs. We’re in this together. Good wages and good benefits for any of us help all of us. And this means workers and businesses together. Seriously, working people take pride in what they do, and like everyone else they want the organizations they are part of to succeed. In the case of businesses, of course, the interests of working people are that their companies do well because then they do well. Everyone is happiest when there is harmony and good times are shared.

These are values that so many of us agree with. When these values were more widespread, our economy functioned better. The middle class was strong, and made gains year after year. But in recent decades, we have seen a Wall Street/Big Business/conservative campaign of propaganda against these values. We hear praise for the wealthy CEO cult and the largest monopolistic corporations and are confronted by an attitude that all of us should serve the interests of the entitled wealthiest, as if we exist at their behest. For them it is about getting as much money and power as they can—for themselves and only for themselves. We hear about how a few “top performers” deserve vast fortunes. We hear, “Greed is good,” “The market should decide.” We hear divisive class-warfare, like “Rich people create jobs” and “Did you ever get a job from a poor person?” We hear that if we dare tax them to pay for the infrastructure that enables their prosperity they will pack up their companies and take their jobs with them. These slogans come from a different kind of business interest—the Wall Streeters and monopolistic giant corporations who want everything for themselves and to leave the mess behind for the rest of us.

The result of the conservative-values approach is that a very few at the top do better and better while the rest of us—including most of the businesses in the country—find it harder and harder to just get by. Jobs and factories are shifted out of the country—beyond the protections of our business, labor and environmental laws and regulatory protections. Local and regional businesses are knocked out or swallowed up. As a result of this shift toward Wall Street values, today’s workplace is characterized by increasing working hours or just workload, high stress, fear of layoffs, low or reduced wages, jobs sent overseas, loss of health care, loss of pensions and a general loss of dignity and security.

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