Anti-Union Thuggery

January 7, 2011

Can you smell that?

A slightly, sulphurous scent with just a hint of nutmeg, I believe. Nutmeg?  No. More like frangipane.

The unmistakable odor of anti-unionism.

Here we are, 2+ years into the biggest financial clusterfuck in nearly 8 decades, and the overwhelming conventional wisdom has it that it’s all because of those privileged, fat cat, parasitic unions. More specifically, public sector unions. All levels of government coffers have been sucked dry by the relentlessly rapacious demands of their unionized public servants. Enough is enough. It’s time that we decent, upstanding, put-upon non-unionists start pushing back. We don’t have job security. We don’t have pensions. We don’t get overtime pay. We’re not given two months off every summer… Man, wouldn’t that be sweet. Wonder how we could get us some of that? Maybe, a group of us get together, organized style. Go to our boss—No wait. Correct answer is: if I can’t have it neither can anyone else! Just like in grade school. You can chew gum in class as long as you’ve brought enough for everyone else.

The full frontal assault is now well under way south of the border as a host of state legislatures look to enact measures ranging from massive layoffs to outright de-certification of public sector unions. It’s a battle played out in real time over the holidays in New York City after it was buried under snow between Christmas and New Years. After serious problems clearing the snow and getting the city moving again, allegations arose in the Rupert Murdoch owned New York Post from “unnamed sources” that the city’s sanitation union, smarting from cutbacks, directed members to drag their heals in doing their jobs as sort of payback. Never mind the 300-400 less bodies in the department to do the actual snow removal. Never mind the mayor’s reticence in declaring an emergency situation; itself a possible product of a hesitancy brought on by a desire to keep costs down. Never mind that surrounding municipalities not subject to the alleged union order work slowdown but under similar financial duress had trouble contending with the storm as well. It was the union’s fault which a subsequent investigation will surely reveal.

Such anti-union rumblings resonate up here, too. Despite proclaiming himself a fiscal warrior, Mayor Rob Ford led the charge last month to get a vote passed in council to ask the province to declare the TTC an essential service which would take away its workers’ right to strike. Never mind that this could cost the city more down the road in terms of mediated settlements. It’s the opening salvo in what is increasingly looking like contentious upcoming union battles the mayor is preparing himself for.

Which is just good politics if not good governance. Everyone has a story to tell about just how corrupt/inept/diabolical unions are. All those workers hanging around, perched on their shovels, filling in one pothole. Physical intimidation of the poor, trembling public at picket lines. That sleeping TTC ticket taker! Could you believe that? Yeah, the union said he was sick or some bullshit like that… What? He died!? What was the union doing, forcing a sick man to work?! It’s the union’s fault!

And if you yourself don’t have a personal anti-union anecdote to contribute to the conversation, you need not look any further than the media to provide you with one.

Witness “Dragon” Kevin O’Leary. Making out just fine on not 1 but 2 shows on the publicly funded CBC, he cannot mask his contempt for unions, calling them ‘evil’ earlier this week on his O’Leary and That Other One Report. Evil? Why? Their labour and legacy costs have been the wrack and ruin of the North American car industry and given China a distinct advantage in the automobile market. Apparently it was because the companies had to keep paying the unions more and more that they were forced to keep building bigger and bigger cars and trucks.

Or how about “There’s Not A Right Wing Shibboleth I Couldn’t Write An Incomprehensible Screed About” Sue-Ann Levy of the Toronto Sun. Her piece from last week is a check list of heads that must roll and kneecaps that must be busted for City Hall to get its fiscal house in order because, as you know, the place doesn’t have a revenue problem, it’s got a spending problem. The main culprits? Hint: unions and their ‘mob bosses’. Ms. Levy hits that note twice so that even Sun readers couldn’t possible miss the implied innuendo. Mob = mobster = gangster = criminal = should be in jail. She throws in a ‘dictatorial’ descriptor as well to suggest that unions are anti-democratic.

This is nothing less than class warfare. More sadly, it’s class civil war with the middle and lower classes at each other’s throats over an ever decreasing slice of the economic pie brought on by 30 years of upward redistribution of wealth. The public purse has been ransacked by a frenzied rush to the bottom of tax cuts and the movement of our manufacturing base overseas in the name of unfettered, under-regulated, free market globalization. With the occasional bailout of industries deemed too big to fail. Yet somehow, it’s all the unions’ and our public sectors’ fault.

Such easy scapegoating is indicative of moral cowardice on our part. We know who’s to blame for the financial straits we are currently facing but engaging the real culprits is a much bigger, nastier battle than we’re willing to be a part of. So instead, we turn on easier targets, making ourselves feel better in the process but doing absolutely nothing to solve our problems.

submitted by Cityslikr


More Michael Moore

November 29, 2010

I don’t make a point of watching Michael Moore’s films. It’s not any problem with him as a filmmaker. It’s his politics.

I tend to agree with him.

He doesn’t challenge my views and opinions. He merely reconfirms them. I am part of the choir he’s preaching to. So, why bother?

But then comes a lazy Sunday afternoon when I probably should be working and there I am, in front of the TV, watching my Toronto Raptors get crushed. I can’t stands it anymore and begin flipping. Just in time for the start of Capitalism: A Love Story. No, no. I really shouldn’t. Really. It’s just going to get me all worked up, mad, angry which, I already am after the Raptors’ drubbing. Suddenly, Iggy Pop starts singing ‘Louie, Louie’ and it’s over. How can I resist? I mean, I’m only human after all. A weak, easily swayed, quick to excite human being.

Sparing you a movie review, let me just say that we need more polemicists like Michael Moore. And by ‘we’, I mean those of us on the left side of the political spectrum.Unswerving, uncompromising, irate, unreasonable, intemperate, pissed-off motherfuckers fed up with having ceded the apparent middle ground to the likes of crackpots from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., talk radio, our very own Toronto Sun, corporate backed think tanks and university economics’ departments, etcetera, etcetera, etc.

Our political and economic discourse has been infected by an ideological mindset impervious to rationality or quantifiable truth. No amount of reaching out and trying to find common ground will succeed. The very act of attempting to have a reasonable debate only gives credence, lends a cloak of legitimacy to what is nothing more than superstitious, mythical lore and cant. It is no longer helpful to engage or participate in such corrupted civics.

People, a lot of people, are angry. They have every right to be. Watching Moore’s film and its agitprop addendum, Inside Job, it is painfully obvious that our economic system is rigged and has slowly over the course of the last 30 years or so poisoned our political system with it. Class war? Hell yeah. And it’s becoming more uneven with every concession we allow to happen in the name of “market realities” or “austerity measures”. We should be angry. It’s just that our anger’s misdirected.

Why?

Because the other side, the evil side, those representing corporate interests over those of the country or taxpayers and customers over citizens, are louder, richer, better organized and more unbending. They’ve seized the megaphone and shaped the dialogue. They don’t seek compromise. They demand acquiescence. When you possess the power, you don’t negotiate. You dictate.

That’s why we need more Michael Moores and his ilk. As direct and aggressive challenges to the status quo and what is embraced as conventional wisdom. While peaceable and fair-minded give-and-take would always be preferable, it’s been some time since any of that has actually happened. The post-war social contract that was drawn up to highlight the rights and responsibilities accorded to citizens and corporations alike has been shredded into pieces, bit by bit, over the past 3 decades. In my humble opinion, we’ve all helped with that by trying to place nice and get along. It’s time that we started to kick up a fuss. Just like Mike.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr