Give the Working Class a Fighting Chance

Written by Adriel Hampton. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on May 10, 2009 with 4 Comments

By Adriel Hampton

May 11, 2009

Workers rallied last week in San Francisco and throughout the U.S. for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill in Congress with the great potential to strengthen organized labor.

Today, when we talk about organized labor and the conditions of the working class, we must think both nationally and globally. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor unions represented only 12 percent of America’s workforce in 2008. That’s down from 20 percent in 1983. The picture for unions is even more bleak if government employment is excluded. Only 7.6 percent of the private workforce is unionized.

Now, plenty of folks have been so blinded by the corporatization of the American polity, and the press, as to find these numbers somehow indicative that unions aren’t needed, or that they are a way of the past.

I say, wake up.

We remain complacent, lulled by cheap consumer goods and decent wages, even as the world economy writhes. The wealthies continue to thrive even as they infringe further on workers’ rights, exporting production to the dozens of countries around the world where labor organizers are routinely threatened, beaten, kidnapped and assassinated. The International Trade Union Confederation in its 2008 survey of workers’ rights documented 91 murders in 2007 and 73 labor activists imprisoned. Fifteen countries enacted new anti-union restrictions.

Meanwhile, the corporate class continues to enjoy taxpayer bailouts and golden parachutes, regardless or performance. The May edition of Conde Naste Portfolio attempts to chronicle America’s 20 worst CEOs, and the tales are shocking. One sidebar points out the “Best Friend Forever” factor, where friends and family of corporate titans routinely benefit from those companies’ largess.

Named in the notorious 20 are:

* Angelo Mozilo, the Countrywide CEO whose infamous “Friends of Angelo” program made special loans to the influential, including Senators Ken Conrad and Chris Dodd,

* Martin Sullivan, who was thrown out of AIG before taxpayers bailed it out, yet pocketed a severance package of $25.4 million,

* Bob Nardellio, who was fired from Home Depot as its value sunk, taking with him $210 million in severance,

* Stan O’Neal, the Merril Lynch titan who helped take down word financial markets and then walked with $161.5 million, and

* Carly Fiorina, who laid of thousands of employees at Hewlett-Packard and now fashions herself a political leader despite her failures as a CEO.

So, when folks ask me why it’s good to get rid of the secret ballot for union elections, I say, it’s time to give working people a fighting chance again. Or when they ask whether workers could really be better off without stockholders and CEOs, I point them to the incredibly successful Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, the seventh largest corporation in Spain, where workers in more than 150 companies own the corporation and work together in one of the world’s most advanced democratic systems.

I say wake up, and give the working class a fighting change. For our future, and for our children’s future.

Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California’s 10th District.

Adriel Hampton

Adriel Hampton is a writer, investigator, strategic consultant and mindfulness practitioner. He runs The Adriel Hampton Group Ltd. in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and was a founding member of NationBuilder. Adriel is founder emeritus of SF Tech Dems and a board member at Legination Inc. Before joining NationBuilder, Adriel worked for SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and for the SF Examiner, Hayward Daily Review and Lodi News-Sentinel. He also founded SF City Camp and Gov 2.0 Radio, and, in 2009, ran for Congress in the East Bay.

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  • Adriel,

    What percentage of voters in California U.S. Congressional District 10 are union members and what are the major locals?

    h.

  • antfaber

    If you are elected, will you unionize Congress?

  • Ah, h, some of my opponents may be reading. We’ll keep that to ourselves.
    Ant, how about I democratize it?

  • Matt Stewart

    Adriel,

    Since the subject of labor empowerment is at the fore, I suggest that you introduce repealing the Taft-Hartley act as a part of your campaign. It seems that it has been around so long that unions have all but given up on even bringing it into the debate. But getting the ball rolling on that matter will really make the corporate elite shit their pants.