Sunday, February 20, 2011

Koch Bros Finance Union Liquidation (But They Are Not Alone)

For those who were shocked by Scott Walker’s moves in Wisconsin, or the general assault on unions across the country, Jim Horn does a pretty good job of connecting the politics to corporate profiteering, specifically the Koch Brothers’ goal of lowering wages by eliminating unions. (See Koch Bros. Own Wisconsin's Scott Walker and the Demonstrators Who Support Him).


The article is a well-researched expose of the billionaire energy magnate Koch Brothers’ efforts in Wisconsin, which are significant. However, it is naïve to believe that the attacks on unions are solely the result of a few greedy billionaires. Unions, even the collaborationist, pro-business ones that dominate the American landscape, are a huge impediment to corporate profits. All bosses benefit when unions are weakened or neutralized. While public sector unions do not directly affect profits since they represent workers in agencies that do not make profits, the higher wages they win for their employees result in fewer tax dollars available for corporate subsidies and tax breaks.  The wealthy also hate unions because they compete with them financially in the effort to buy politicians and legislation. The effort to crush unions has existed since the very first unions formed.


Horn has a tendency to make bombastic statements, like “Their effort . . . to roll back labor arrangements to the 19th Century was a slight misjudgment. . .” Yet we hardly need to go back to the 19th century to see such assaults on the working class. In the 1980s, Reagan destroyed the PATCO air traffic controllers union by imprisoning and firing those who refused to return to work.  Likewise, threatening to use armed soldiers to force employees back to work is hardly an ancient tactic. Hundreds of workers were slaughtered by National Guards, state militias, local police, Pinkertons, and vigilante goons throughout the first half of the 20th century. Even the right to form a union and to engage in strike actions is a relatively recent phenomenon for public sector workers, with many states banning them as recently as the 1960s or 1970s, and others continuing to ban them.

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