Monday, June 14, 2010

Scapegoating unions

Jean Peery wrote: “We, the private sector, plug along with less and less and so should the union’s employees.’ (“Contracts can be broken,” Letters, June 9). I would ask Peery if she ever stops to wonder why the private sector has to plug along with less and less while union employees don’t.

Over the past 30 years, wealthy corporatists have eviscerated worker rights, beginning with Ronald Reagan firing the air traffic controllers. The National Labor Relations Board refused to deal with even the most egregious cases for the past 10 years and the Supreme Court ruled against Lily Ledbetter in a case of blatant gender discrimination.

In 1983, Alan Greenspan and his cronies claimed to have fixed Social Security: They doubled the amount we contribute and raised the age of retirement. Then they spent the savings on tax cuts for themselves, spending every penny and turning a surplus into a huge deficit.

Next corporations eliminated pensions and told us to invest in the stock market via a 401(k) or an IRA. Wall Street took all that money we invested and rather than using it to fund innovations and new businesses, created financial instruments that gambled it away. Adding insult to injury, they bet against us and made a profit while we watched our retirement money and our tax dollars disappear: We lost everything, they got a big fat bonus.

Not to mention the shell game that turned home mortgages, a previously secure investment, into a game of three card Monte. And this is what you got if your job wasn’t outsourced to Mexico or India where someone will do it for much less money in countries with even less worker protection.

Peery is a victim of groupthink and media feedback. Conservative think tanks put out statements blaming union pensions for state deficits, the media picks it up and, since modern media is not journalism, it gives opinion equal weight with facts. The statement gets repeated, and the political echo chamber makes the same argument over and over.

The corporatists have squeezed every penny they can out of workers in the private sector. They took our pensions, our Social Security, our investments, even our homes and our jobs. They got obscenely rich on our backs. But that isn’t enough for them: Now they are going after the pensions and wages of the last group of workers who still have the protections we all enjoyed 30 years ago, simply because they don’t want to pay taxes for the common good.

And as long as they fool working people into blaming unions and state workers for the ills imposed on them by the wealthy, the corporations and Wall Street, they have a good chance of succeeding.

--KATHLEEN SCHULTZ, Southeast Portland

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