Saturday, December 13, 2008

Still Trying to Kill Joe Hill

The GOP has decided that breaking a union is more important than preserving the industrial backbone of the US economy. The party issued an Action Alert on December 10, 2008 to Republican senators outlining a strategy to derail the Auto Bailout bill and listed as its first point:
This is the democrats first opportunity to payoff organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it.

This is a rather bitter outcome for the automakers who have been big supporters of the Republican Party, contributing 3 times as much to GOP candidates as to Democrats in the last two decades. But of course, the GOP is more interested in beating down a powerful union than in supporting a powerful American business. Most times the car companies feel common cause with the Republicans in weakening unions, but they now must understand that that common cause does not correspond to any GOP interest in preserving their business.

At a time when we are at the edge of a deep recession that most acknowledge looks to be the worst in 70 years - since the Great Depression - the GOP is obsessed with lowering the wages of the middle class - they had no such concern with the wages of the Wall Street bankers who have received over $2 trillion in government dollars to prop up their business.

Thom Hartmann, interviewed by NBC's David Shuster puts the GOP actions in historic context as part of their deliberate effort to destroy unions - which are strong supporters of the Democratic Party - and to deliberately impoverish the middle class.

Michael Moore states it plainly:

Friday, December 12th, 2008
Senate to Middle Class: Drop Dead ...a message from Michael Moore


They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers start building only cars and mass transit that reduce our dependency on oil.

They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers build cars that reduce global warming.

They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers withdraw their many lawsuits against state governments in their attempts to not comply with our environmental laws.

They could have given the loan on the condition that the management team which drove these once-great manufacturers into the ground resign and be replaced with a team who understands the transportation needs of the 21st century.

Yes, they could have given the loan for any of these reasons because, in the end, to lose our manufacturing infrastructure and throw 3 million people out of work would be a catastrophe.

But instead, the Senate said, we'll give you the loan only if the factory workers take a $20 an hour cut in wages, pension and health care. That's right. After giving BILLIONS to Wall Street hucksters and criminal investment bankers -- billions with no strings attached and, as we have since learned, no oversight whatsoever -- the Senate decided it is more important to break a union, more important to throw middle class wage earners into the ranks of the working poor than to prevent the total collapse of industrial America.

We have a little more than a month to go of this madness. As I sit here in Michigan today, tens of thousands of hard working, honest, decent Americans do not believe they can make it to January 20th. The malaise here is astounding. Why must they suffer because of the mistakes of every CEO from Roger Smith to Rick Wagoner? Make management and the boards of directors and the shareholders pay for this.

Of course that is heresy to the 31 Republicans who decided to blame the poor, miserable autoworkers for this mess. And our wonderful media complied with their spin on the morning news shows: "UAW Refuses to Give Concessions Killing Auto Bailout Bill." In fact the UAW has given concession after concession, reduced their benefits, agreed to get rid of the Jobs Bank and agreed to make it harder for their retirees to live from week to week. Yes! That's what we need to do! It's the Jobs Bank and the old people who have led the nation to economic ruin!

But even doing all that wasn't enough to satisfy the bastard Republicans. These Senate vampires wanted blood. Blue collar blood. You see, they weren't opposed to the bailout because they believed in the free market or capitalism. No, they were opposed to the bailout because they're opposed to workers making a decent wage. In their rage, they were driven to destroy the backbone of this country, not because the UAW hadn't given back enough, but because the UAW hadn't given up.

It appears that the sitting President has been looking for a way to end his reign by one magnanimous act, just like a warlord on his feast day. He will put his finger in the dyke, and the fragile mess of an auto industry will eke through the next few months.

That will give the Senate enough time to demand that the bankers and investment sharks who've already swiped nearly half of the $700 billion gift a chance to make the offer of cutting their pay.

Fat chance.

What's the deal with Joe Hill? He was the union organizer and song writer who was framed and executed in 1915 as part of the effort to destroy the labor movement. His death backfired, making him a martyr and rallying cry that ensured the movement's continued growth. In 1936 Earl Robinson wrote I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night based on the poem by Alfred Hayes:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you and me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he, "I never died," says he.

"In Salt Lake, Joe, by God," says I
Him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge."
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead," says Joe, "But I ain't dead."

"The copper bosses shot you, Joe,
They killed you, Joe," says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die," says Joe, "I didn't die."

And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Joe says, "What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize, went on to organize."

"Joe Hill ain't dead," he says to me,
"Joe Hill ain't never died.
Where workingmen are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side, Joe Hill is at their side."

"From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill
Where workers strike and organize,"
Says he, "You'll find Joe Hill," says he, "You'll find Joe Hill."

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