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A Snake Slithers Up the Mississippi PDF Print E-mail
Written by Gregory Gibbs   
Thursday, 29 March 2012 00:37

Who allowed this to happen?

Since slavery, the Southern United States has been home to the most reactionary forces in the U.S.—forces now concentrated in the Republican Party and the oil barons of Dallas and Houston. Odd, because they started out as Southern Democrats!

Slave labor and wage labor have several things in common—especially if wage labor can be made to more closely resemble wage slavery. So if you thought the Civil War ended in 1865, you'd be sadly mistaken. Georgian Jimmy Carter prepared the ground for Reagan by moving to the right. Ronald Reagan made it official, establishing 'small government' as the goal of U.S. society. Arkansan Bill Clinton incorporated Reaganism into the Democratic Party by echoing Reagan and declaring the "era of big government over" in 1996.'

In the process, the Democrats adopted a form of rampant libertarianism that continues to this day. Some local and national Democrats oppose this neo-liberal trend, but they have been on the losing end of the debate inside the Democratic Party for 30 years. Now big city neoliberals like Obama and Rahm Emanuel exemplify the northern mirror of southern Reaganism. So who remains as the real opposition to runaway corporatism? Certainly not the wobbling Democratic Party. Which is why the snake has moved north.

Why is this important? In Ohio recently, the unions and workers fought a proposal to ban all collective bargaining, and defeated it.  But in Indiana, it a "Right to Work for Less" law and limitations on collective bargaining for teachers passed.  In Wisconsin, it passed for public workers in all practical respects, though there Labor is fighting to annul the law.  The recent vote in the Minnesota legislature on whether or not to move forward with a referendum on so-called "Right to Work For Free" is merely the Southern chickens coming home to roost, even in this far Northern outpost.

You thought this poison would stay South? After all, it was the Southern United States and their "union-free" or "union-lite" environments that first decimated Northern industries in the 70s and 80s—it was not Mexico or China. And that process is still going on—witness all the automobile manufacturing plants located in Alabama and the Carolinas. Turning the whole U.S. into a free-fire, cheap labor zone for capital is the ultimate goal. And destroying or weakening unions is key to that goal. That is capital's "American Dream."

As unions have shown, wages, working conditions and social conditions are worse in every single 'Right to Work for Less" state in the U.S. These laws forbid the closed shop —essentially weakening the power of a union to bargain or strike even if they win a union vote. It would be like forbidding businessmen from working together if one businessman disagreed. It holds the majority of workers to the standard of the most conservative minority—an essentially anti-democratic move. It would be like the U.S. legislature being unable to provide the vote to women, because several states objected. Breaking up working-class solidarity is the goal of every single capitalist. Oh, except maybe for those ice cream guys in Vermont. But I’m not so sure about them anyway.

As an example, take a look at the hipster town of Athens/Clark County, Georgia, in the "new" South. It is home to the University of Georgia at Athens (UGA). It features a cute downtown with lots of music venues and bars, a big home for musicians, and now a foodie culture. Yet it is one of the 10 most unequal counties in the United States. Why? Can you say "overpaid college bureaucrats" and a professorial elite on the one hand, and non-union service and small manufacturing employees on the other? Only unionization will bring a living wage or some kind of small economic and social equality to Athens. Of course, it is black workers that are the most unpaid in Athens. Certainly more REM songs won’t do the trick.
For the states in the Northern tier being presented with anti-union "Right to Work for Nothing" laws—now Ohio and Minnesota for instance—this is our Scott Walker moment. If the legislatures attempt to pass a bill to legalize this, or a bill to put this on the ballot, or bills to break collective bargaining, the war is ON here in every Northern state. Like Ohio, the working class can stop this attack. Every union, every non-union worker, every student, and every activist in every disparate, separated, minuscule, isolated organization should come together and fight against these proposals with everything in their power. A united front of unions and community groups should be formed in each state.
The Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor in Minnesota proposes to work with unions in that state to bring the message of defeating this slave labor law to the general working public. After all, it is non-union workers that will also see their wages and working conditions decline if this law passes, as their benefits are partly calculated based on competing and comparison with union scales.  So even though this measure appears to be dead in the water for this year, this fight is still to be waged in Minnesota.

Defeat the open shop! Complete the Civil War! Organize the South! Unionize the whole country! Build a labor party!

Gregory Gibbs
Minneapolis, MN 55406