“Last century”

Did you miss Mickey Kaus’s anti-union rant in the LA Times on May 3? If so, you didn’t miss much – he took up one of the right wing’s favorite past times: throwing rocks at public sector unions. Our favorite part, though, was Kaus’ gigantic backhanded compliment to the labor movement:

Unions have done a lot for this country; they were especially important when giant employers tried to take advantage of a harsh economy in the last century, not only to keep down wages but to speed up assembly lines and, worse, force workers to risk their lives and health.

The last century? Where’ve you been, Mickey?

We’re living in the age of Don Blankenship, whose opposition to organizing and profits-over-people mentality lead to the deaths of 29 miners last month. We’re living in the age where Wal-Mart, the biggest private employer in the country, cuts the wages and benefits of its workers despite record profits, blatantly violates labor law– and is seen as a role-model, not a bad apple, by the business world. And we’re living in a time where violating our nation’s labor laws – flexible as they are – results in nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Critics are welcome to cherry-pick the real or perceived failures of individual unions. The truth is that the labor movement’s job is definitively unfinished, and unions are the best vehicles for workers to advocate for their rights and safety.

Threats to workers’ “lives and health” aren’t relics of the past. They are alive and well in 2010, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Pundits on both sides of the spectrum would do well to acknowledge it.

(Also see Susan Lowitz’s response to Kaus’s column.)

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 13th, 2010 at 4:05 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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