A Few Inconsistencies


The Supreme Court this week pointed its quavering finger at the reality behind some Republican talking points and fired off a shot at public unions.

They handed down a decision that, regardless of your personal feelings about Unions and collective bargaining rights, has to be seen by any honest observer as an act of judicial activism.

For the Court to issue rulings on questions that are not argued before the Court certainly would seem to warrant some kind of acknowledgement of wrongdoing from the body politic, but as we have seen time and time again, it is only egregious if Democrats do it.

This, after a couple of decades of consistent cries from the Right about Judicial activism, legislating from the bench, and the imagined end-run around the Democratic process under way by a vast Left-wing judicial conspiracy of closet Socialists in black robes. That seems a little inconsistent in light of the current Supremes’ cavalier attitude about their own right to divinely intervene.

I agree with Tom’s earlier post about the political importance of the struggle to keep the Court from becoming an even more conservative body. The unfortunate thing though, is that I do not believe that either of our prominent Parties will do anything to stop the pendulum swing of oligarchical ascendance.

Industry lobbies a friendly and receptive Government for the right to monitor the movements of their workers without their knowledge, spy on them with cameras, reduce their pay in times of hardship (or loss of profit margin or share price, as was my own experience) force workers into redefined job titles as “contractors” or “managers” in order to avoid limitations on work hours, overtime pay, benefits or even workplace safety. Meanwhile the salaries of the ones at the top continue to climb out of sight in almost cartoonish fashion and the average pay for workers continues to fall.

The rhetoric of diminished expectations, the same rhetoric that got Jimmy Carter laughed out of politics, has become the new conventional wisdom, and a massive realignment of the American social order is being perpetrated under the cover of this ongoing crisis that, if not manufactured to begin with, is being nursed along by government inaction and misdirection. Conveniently, the crisis seems only to affect the rank and file of American finance, while at the top life has never been better. Profits continue to climb and Wall Street continues to gamble with the nation’s treasure.

It would be inconsistent with the political rhetoric coming out of Washington that the fortunes of the so-called one percent seem so rosy, if you didn’t realize that the rhetoric of crisis is just a useful tool and not a real fight.

Private industry representatives seek to have every possible permutation of influence interpreted as protected speech. And they have mostly succeeded in that goal. We collectively bail out Wall Street banks in an emergency without a thought to the possibility that anyone might deserve to opt in or out of the operation. (Not to mention the occasional attack on foreign Nations. No body asked my permission to use my tax contributions for that, did they?) But attacks on the rights of workers get no such action. The degradation of the American standard of living goes forward as if planned, and Unions, my God, those horrible Unions, do not get to indulge in any kind of self-protection regardless of circumstance if it means they must have material support from the workers whose rights they protect to do so.

Unions are being hounded out of existence by cynical people who claim to act on behalf of workers while working to strip away the rights and protections and good old American clout that people suffered and died to win. They play on their fears of losing even more of what little they have so they can engineer a world in which there is no voice left to perhaps demand that the American worker not be relegated to a subclass of servants.

The Right Wing guardians of virtue hold the rights of the individual above all things, or so they say. The free market is designed to reward individual effort and individual enterprise. But what we see happening is that the Corporate interests are not only allowed but encouraged to band together under umbrella groups like the ALEC, or to join in with any number of other organizations, lobbying groups and industry collectives to further their interests.

Private individuals it seems have the right to do anything except band together to form a collective able to protect its members against the domination of the corporate elite. So much I suppose for the idea of a more perfect Union. Or is it just that the understanding of what is “more perfect” is in the hands of the powerful and the rest of us just have to take what we can get?

The unfortunate truth is that it is and always has been about power. Rights are transient, and fair game for contest. Once upon a time Unions provided the average worker with a measure of power against the tendency of Industry to use as little capital and care with labor as possible. Labor, after all is an expense that takes a toll on profit. If profit, not the welfare of the worker is your goal, it follows that rights and protections for those workers are inconsistent with the goal.

The work experience most people take for granted in our country was a hard fought battle. Yet even at the height of the golden age of labor in this country the conditions and benefits accorded American workers paled in comparison to contemporary European workers. Although you will find people willing to claim that the strength of unions in the Eurozone is a direct cause of the current crisis, that is an insane argument. The Eurozone crisis is about currency values tied together with no relief valve in a system designed to integrate but not equalize financial systems of vastly unequal values. It has little if anything to do with the relative strength of workers’ unions.

The same thing is true in America. Workers’ rights has never caused a financial crisis. Workers’ rights has never caused a real estate bubble, tech bubble, deregulation bubble or supply side crisis of confidence. The worker is not the enemy of profit, the worker is the engine of profit. Unless that is, your only national industry of any consequence anymore is a shell game of financial transactions where workers of any ilk are an unwelcome tether to the real world, inconsistent with the design of the system of scams now substituting for an economy.

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  1. Ascend of Asheville says:

    Also, This.

  2. Davyne Dial says:

    Devil’s advocate here.

    If you’ve ever exhibited in NYC, you would perhaps feel a bit skeptical of Unions. At the famous Javits Center, you cannot bus in your own merchandise /display. You must allow a Union guy to remove the display from your vehicle…he will then bus it from the loading dock to inside the freight door. From there another union guy will buss your display to your booth. Each expecting a large tip…in addition to the pay they recieve from the Convention Center. Then to have power to your booth, you must pay an electrician $200.00 to connect you (probably more now, as my experience is 12 to 15 years ago.) This is simply a mater of plugging in an exhibition grade cord. Point is many Unions have run amok in their own way. They did no one any favors by overstepping.

  3. Roger E. Hartley says:


    I understand and have seen similar inefficiencies at work in unions. However, those efforts to protect jobs, demand higher wages, and to demand reasonable wages are, to me, not much different than the work of far more powerful interests to get sweetheart contracts from govts that vastly increase the prices of items that we purchase. In addition there is effort after effort by business interest to gut regulations. Even when passed the enforcement measures are paltry and penalties are paltry as well. We do more to enforce laws that govern the behavior of average citizens (look at police budgets) then to enforce laws that protect worker and consumer safety.

    So once unions get in the tent at all…I don’t blame them for doing everything they can in this system to protect the overall numbers of workers they can place by contract and to bargain for as much of that pie as they can get. The truth is that any inefficiency unions bring pales in the organizational inefficiency found in most businesses and the inefficiencies that they create as they manipulate law and policy to their benefit.