Where Heart Shift Happens. Teaching the Science of Sustainable Health. What works for 7 future generations? "Do not go where the freeway may lead - Go instead where there is no path and build - A Green Road"
From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.
Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, "When did this all end?", I say, "It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981."
Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to "go for it" -- to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.
And they've succeeded.
On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who'd defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days.
It was a bold and brash move. No one had ever tried it. What made it even bolder was that PATCO was one of only three unions that had endorsed Reagan for president! It sent a shock wave through workers across the country. If he would do this to the people who were with him, what would he do to us?
Reagan had been backed by Wall Street in his run for the White House and they, along with right-wing Christians, wanted to restructure America and turn back the tide that President Franklin D. Roosevelt started -- a tide that was intended to make life better for the average working person. The rich hated paying better wages and providing benefits. They hated paying taxes even more. And they despised unions. The right-wing Christians hated anything that sounded like socialism or holding out a helping hand to minorities or women.
Reagan promised to end all that. So when the air traffic controllers went on strike, he seized the moment. In getting rid of every single last one of them and outlawing their union, he sent a clear and strong message: The days of everyone having a comfortable middle class life were over. America, from now on, would be run this way:
* The super-rich will make more, much much more, and the rest of you will scramble for the crumbs that are left.
* Everyone must work! Mom, Dad, the teenagers in the house! Dad, you work a second job! Kids, here's your latch-key! Your parents might be home in time to put you to bed.
* 50 million of you must go without health insurance! And health insurance companies: you go ahead and decide who you want to help -- or not.
* Unions are evil! You will not belong to a union! You do not need an advocate! Shut up and get back to work! No, you can't leave now, we're not done. Your kids can make their own dinner.
* You want to go to college? No problem -- just sign here and be in hock to a bank for the next 20 years!
* What's "a raise"? Get back to work and shut up!
And so it went. But Reagan could not have pulled this off by himself in 1981. He had some big help:
The biggest organization of unions in America told its members to cross the picket lines of the air traffic controllers and go to work. And that's just what these union members did. Union pilots, flight attendants, delivery truck drivers, baggage handlers -- they all crossed the line and helped to break the strike. And union members of all stripes crossed the picket lines and continued to fly.
Reagan and Wall Street could not believe their eyes! Hundreds of thousands of working people and union members endorsing the firing of fellow union members. It was Christmas in August for Corporate America.
And that was the beginning of the end. Reagan and the Republicans knew they could get away with anything -- and they did. They slashed taxes on the rich. They made it harder for you to start a union at your workplace. They eliminated safety regulations on the job. They ignored the monopoly laws and allowed thousands of companies to merge or be bought out and closed down.. Corporations froze wages and threatened to move overseas if the workers didn't accept lower pay and less benefits. And when the workers agreed to work for less, they moved the jobs overseas anyway.
And at every step along the way, the majority of Americans went along with this. There was little opposition or fight-back. The "masses" did not rise up and protect their jobs, their homes, their schools (which used to be the best in the world). They just accepted their fate and took the beating.
I have often wondered what would have happened had we all just stopped flying, period, back in 1981. What if all the unions had said to Reagan, "Give those controllers their jobs back or we're shutting the country down!"? You know what would have happened. The corporate elite and their boy Reagan would have buckled.
But we didn't do it. And so, bit by bit, piece by piece, in the ensuing 30 years, those in power have destroyed the middle class of our country and, in turn, have wrecked the future for our young people. Wages have remained stagnant for 30 years. Take a look at the statistics and you can see that every decline we're now suffering with had its beginning in 1981 (here's a little scene to illustrate that from my last movie).
It all began on this day, 30 years ago. One of the darkest days in American history. And we let it happen to us. Yes, they had the money, and the media and the cops. But we had 200 million of us. Ever wonder what it would look like if 200 million got truly upset and wanted their country, their life, their job, their weekend, their time with their kids back?
Have we all just given up? What are we waiting for? Forget about the 20% who support the Tea Party -- we are the other 80%! This decline will only end when we demand it. And not through an online petition or a tweet. We are going to have to turn the TV and the computer and the video games off and get out in the streets (like they've done in Wisconsin). Some of you need to run for local office next year. We need to demand that the Democrats either get a spine and stop taking corporate money -- or step aside.
When is enough, enough? The middle class dream will not just magically reappear. Wall Street's plan is clear: America is to be a nation of Haves and Have Nothings. Is that OK for you?
Why not use today to pause and think about the little steps you can take to turn this around in your neighborhood, at your workplace, in your school? Is there any better day to start than today?
The Republican NEO CON think tanks thought this through and figured out how to break the US auto unions and get rid of all worker entitlement programs, by making US union workers to blame for EVERYTHING...
Entitlement? Republicans want to break AALLLL unions including the UAW.. so make them look like Satan incarnate.. Easy to do, as we own the media and we can craft the message.
Workers rights? don't need em...
Retirement benefits? Get rid of them, they get in the way of profits.
Unions? They are a Communist conspiracy.. Never mind that China does not allow unions as they get in the way of corporate dictatorship.
What about the LIE that union auto workers make much much more what non union workers make?
Union workers make exactly what foreign car workers make.. So what?... Cut their salaries anyway..
LIE NUMBER 2. US union workers cost much more per hour than foreign workers.
Retirees from US car companies have been retiring for over 100 years, which costs US car companies money.. that is the 'extra cost' per hour that many conservatives say is part of too high 'wages'.
Foreign car companies have only 20 years history and few retirees, so much less cost there, right? So what do US car companies want? Take this cost away and make US taxpayers pay for this, as MANY other large corporations are now doing... Get rid of retirement benefits entirely. Never mind that US taxpayers would get the shaft, along with retirees that built up all of these companies. Pension funds are a drain on corporate profits and prevent absolute dictatorship over workers.
Only cars built in the US have built-in health insurance costs, because other cars are built in places like Japan or Germany that provide health insurance to all citizens, or they're built in places like Mexico or Brazil where the workforces are non-union and don't receive health care AT ALL. What do these car companies and Republicans want? Throw all benefits out, and let the workers be uninsured. THis is part of the higher per hour wage cost... What is the answer?
If all US CITIZENS had universal healthcare like all citizens do in all other civilized countries except the US, well geez, then we could drop all that 'extra' cost.. Bush and his misguided cronies want all workers to pay for healthcare 100% out of their own pocket or join the ranks of 50 MILLION people in the US who are uninsured, right? The funny math that Republicans use is totally based on outright lies and misconceptions designed to piss off everyone at the unions, not at management. http://www.dhinmi.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/11/22/15202/495/359/664761
Meanwhile, executives and management keep their salaries and bonuses, and stock options, and golden parachutes, and all the rest of the perks such as private jets, etc... ad nauseum. The bottom line, it is OK for management to make trillions IN SECRET HANDOUTS, but workers get the shaft and unions must be broken, because they challenge this status quo of corporate dictatorship and worker enslavement entitlement program.
This is all bad enough, but it gets worse.. The reasons for Republicans voting down the Auto bailout package are not what they seemed.
"Republican senators blocked the bailout, which required 60 votes rather than a simple majority. And they did it for the worst possible reasons.
Exhibit A is Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, an outspoken opponent of the bailout who told Detroit CEOs point-blank - before hearings even began - that he would vote no on a loan.
Shelby, it turns out, is a bought-and-paid-for advocate for non-American carmakers.
Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz all operate in Alabama, a so-called right-to-work state where unions are scarce - but taxpayer help for corporations is not. At a recent press conference, Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers union, ticked off the staggering sums of subsidy money Alabama has given to these foreign companies.
"We have Hyundai Motor Co. that got $252 million in incentives. Toyota there got $29 million in incentives. Honda, $158 million," Gettelfinger said.
Alabama gave Mercedes-Benz the sweetest deal of all: job training, incentives, an agreement to buy 2,500 cars and a parcel of land valued at more than $250 million - the price to Mercedes of building a plant.
"That incentive package totaled somewhere around $175,000 per employee to create those jobs there," Gettelfinger said. "We can offer incentives to our competitors to come here and compete against us, but at the same time we are willing to walk away from an industry that is the backbone of our economy."
That, in a nutshell, is the problem. Nationwide, right-to-work states have poured $3 billion in subsidies into foreign-owned carmakers since 1992, according to the union. And yet Republican senators from states like Alabama, Mississippi,Kentucky, Tennessee and both Carolinas suddenly turned into born-again opponents of giving government dollars to private companies."
Republicans in states where foreign car companies reside prevented a fair helping hand to the US homegrown auto industry. By breaking the unions in the US with Bushes POISON handout, they can lower the wages paid to THEIR foreign workers, and increase their profits, with the help of traitorous Republicans in bed with foreign car companies.
Never mind all of this truth.. Blame the workers... blame the US union workers, blame the workers... keep repeating this mantra until you believe it.
Bush and his Republican cronies who are forcing the breaking of all unions do not think through what this means for the economy.. They do not bother to say that ALL car companies are currently getting handouts from their respective governments..plus subsidies and perks here in the US, as shown above...They conveniently FORGET to talk about this.
If the US lets car companies fold and disappear, it would just be exporting more car part manufacturing jobs to Communist China, Japan and Europe, which is the competition. No US taxes paid, no jobs in our local communities and no middle class blue collar workers... In other words, more slaves for the corporate machines to chew on and spit out.
"Fast disappearing is an era when workers on assembly lines can afford to buy the vehicles they make. When the UAW agreed to a midcontract opener in 2005, and a 2007 agreement that lowered new-hire wages to $14.50 an hour, the union struggled to squeak out approval from an angry (and increasingly financially unstable) membership.
Blaming the Workers
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger later said his decision to negotiate with a lone Republican senator was a mistake, especially when the whole pantomime seemed like a warm-up act for Republican opposition to the card-check bill, the Employee Free Choice Act. But the administration's insistence on linking the bridge loan to wage cuts angered autoworkers even more.
Jim Theisen, a member of UAW Local 212, who joined the autoworker caravan to Washington, said the caravan brought the message to Capitol Hill that rank-and-file wages aren't the industry's problem, and that cutting union wages harms everyone.
"Our Southern brothers and sisters don't get $24 an hour out of the kindness of the auto owners' hearts," he said. "If there wasn't a union in the North, they'd be getting $10 an hour."
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.
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Essentials of Life
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