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No help for workers



No help for workers

“Without organization the wageworkers are helpless victims of the industrial forces that are seeking their own self-interest. The right to organize is a sham, a trick, a deceit, unless it carries with it the right to organize effectively and the right to use that organized power to further the interests of the workers.”

The words are equally apt in 2009, as industrial forces again deny workers the right to organize effectively, but they were written by Samuel Gompers in 1914. Organized labor was weak then too, and working people suffered accordingly. As time passed, the unions grew stronger, with the help of sympathetic public officials, and the lives of American workers got better. They were pushed back down the economic ladder when the union-busters became more resourceful. They again need help from their elected representatives.

But they're not getting it from Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who has  announced she'll vote against a bill that would make it easier for workers to join unions. Desperate for re-election, the senator caved in to a wild anti-labor propaganda campaign. A vigorous supporter of tax breaks for billionaires, she rationalized that labor's bill was a diversion from the real problems America faces. To the family trying to live on it, a starvation wage is as real as problems get.


The Gompers quotation is in the April issue of The Progressive, a noble magazine celebrating its centennial by republishing observations as fresh now as when they were uttered. Irving Fisher wrote in 1917: “At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without universal health insurance. [A distinction still held, still unenviable.] Health insurance is like elementary education. To function properly, it must be universal and to be universal, it must be obligatory.” Scott Nearing wrote from the depths of the Great Depression: “They strutted up and down the avenue in those bygone days. They were freeborn, 100 percent American big businessmen who took back-talk from nobody. Now they take a handout wherever they can get it. Billions will be ladled into the mouths of the very individualistic big businessmen who, five years ago, were yelling their heads off about ‘no government interference with business.' “ And the Socialist leader Norman Thomas emphatically rejected the notion that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a Socialist: “There is no Socialism at all about taking over all the banks which fell in Uncle Sam's lap, putting them on their feet again, and turning them back to the bankers to see if they can bring them once more to ruin.”

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