By Jonathan Rosenblum
Beginning in 1979 in Seattle, WA, Jim Levitt expertly fabricated custom aircraft parts and tools, helping make the Boeing Company one of the most successful businesses in the world. But in 2013, corporate executives issued a threat: They demanded that Levitt and his fellow machinists surrender their pensions, and that Washington State political leaders hand over a record $8.7 billion in tax benefits. In exchange the company promised to keep production jobs in-state. The Democratic governor of Washington, along with virtually the entire political establishment, caved in to the blackmail. So did Levitt’s international union leadership – they had bargained the deal secretly with the company. The capitulation cost 32,000 Boeing workers their pensions.
“We’ve lost collective bargaining, for all intents and purposes,” Levitt observed in the wake of the corporate blackmail.
In recent weeks we’ve seen no shortage of reasons – and excuses – for why Hillary Clinton blew the election and Donald Trump will be our next president: the Russians, an unfair Electoral College system, FBI Director James Comey, xenophobia/racism/sexism, a weak Democratic candidate, Wikileaks, and faked news. Some Clinton backers even blame the “tough” primary run that Bernie Sanders gave their candidate.
What’s barely given any attention in the mainstream media is the role that decades of destruction of union power played in the 2016 election debacle. But it’s no mystery to Levitt, his fellow Boeing workers, and millions of other workers from all walks of life who’ve justifiably grown cynical about a political establishment that repeatedly has failed them over the years.
Today, overall union membership is at its lowest point in more than 70 years. In the private sector, a paltry 1 in 15 workers holds a union card.
Now it will get worse: Public sector unions are bracing for the inevitable Supreme Court decision allowing “freeloading” – requiring unions to let workers avoid paying any dues while still receiving full union representation and protection. The incoming Congress promises to be hostile to worker organizations, eager to do on a national scale what Gov. Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin unions.
Underscoring labor’s weakness, the election results produced the most anemic union turnout for the Democratic presidential candidate in more than 30 years: Clinton won union households by only 51 to 43 percent, an 8 percent margin. In the previous 7 presidential elections, in contrast, the Democrat won union households by an average margin of 22 percent. Continue reading
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