The Supreme Court’s doubling down on Citizens United wasn’t the only decision this session that seemed designed to strengthen the grip of corporate America and the superrich. Another one – Knox versus SEIU Local 1000 – the Service Employees International Union – would diminish the financial power of organized labor by restricting union dues used for political action. The Knox decision is just the latest attack in the ongoing battle against labor. And like the fight in Wisconsin and other states, it focuses on public sector unions – in part because they’re the greatest remaining bastion of labor’s power.

The strength of organized labor was once a muscular way for working people to push back against plutocracy. In union there is strength -- that was the old saying and it was true. But the percentage of union members in the American workforce has declined in the last sixty years from 35 to 12 percent, and labor has faced a pounding series of setbacks of which the Supreme Court’s Knox decision is just the latest. And yet, with corporations continuing to put the squeeze on employees, with joblessness and inequality rampant, now would seem the perfect time for people to turn back to unions to fight for them against the monied interests. Why haven’t they?

Stephen Lerner has spent more than three decades as a labor and community organizer, and as architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign. He was director of SEIU’s Private Equity project – which worked to expose the Wall Street feeding frenzy that would end in catastrophe especially for the working class. Bill Fletcher Jr. graduated from Harvard and went to work as a shipyard welder, along the way becoming a labor activist fighting for racial justice and union democracy. He has worked with SEIU and the United Auto Workers, among others. He’s the author of this upcoming book. “They’re Bankrupting Us – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.”

Welcome to both of you.


BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all time low and fewer people are employed than anytime in the past 30 years. Why isn't this the opportunity for an old fashioned, good old fight for the working people?

STEPHEN LERNER: The question is less is it the right moment to organize, but what are the ways we organize and what are the things that we have to start doing that really let us take on corporate power.


STEPHEN LERNER: Massive, non-violent civil disobedience. The labor movement was built when it occupied factories which weren’t, wasn't legal either. That we need to look at a set of tactics and be willing to take risks and things that we haven't done in years because when somebody wants to destroy you, giant corporations, they pass laws to make it illegal for you to exercise your democratic rights. Then we need to look at movements of the past and other countries. And what they've done again and again is that we're willing to go to jail. We're willing to take tremendous risks to win our country.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: The difficulty in developing and moving in the direction that Stephen is suggesting is that the leaders themselves have to begin by recognizing that this is not 1970. That, that there's no going back to what we once had.

BILL MOYERS: You're talkin' about the leaders of unions?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Leaders of unions.

BILL MOYERS: And you're saying they don't recognize it?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: They don't. They continue, they are fearful, Bill, of fundamentally becoming organizations that are viewed as disreputable. They're very worried about being in a situation where they're no longer invited to the White House dinners. And what we have to understand is that unions did not get started based on White House dinners. They got started based on exactly what Stephen is suggesting. That you have to be ready to throw the dice. And most of the leaders of the movement, unfortunately at this point, remain fearful of shaking the table. We need battle stations. A new level of vitality, a new level of tactics, new strategies, new forms of organization that we have not previously used. That's where we are.

STEPHEN LERNER: I think many of us at least have spent our life sort of waiting for the great leader to come and, you know, come and save us. And I actually am not waiting. I don't think that there's going to be somebody in Washington that's going to emerge and do that. I think instead we have to look at where are the battles that we can have that we can both win but also become symbolic and exciting that inspire and move people. Because the labor movement's suffering very a version of the Stockholm Syndrome. That we've been held captive by capital for so long, we're so used to losing, that we almost identify with our oppressor. And that part of what has to happen here is brilliant strategies and tactics, but there's another piece which is that we just have to be willing to say slowly dying is worse than having a really big fight and trying to win.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Let's use this Wisconsin example. Labor has spent very little time focusing on educating its own membership. Thirty-eight percent the families of union members voted for Walker as opposed to voting for the recall. People look at their self interests in very different ways and it's up to the unions to really create a framework where there's a dialogue. Not simply telling people what to believe, but really a dialogue about what's happening with working people in the United States. There are 16 million union members.

BILL MOYERS: Private and public?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Private and public. The organized labor needs to look to educate those 16 million people, because it's not simply about building alliances between the leaders of different unions and various community organizations or social movements. It's that the members of the unions have to feel themselves that they're part of something larger. People have to have that bigger picture. Unions can do that. They should be doing it now. But that necessitates putting resources that many leaders feel could best go elsewhere.

STEPHEN LERNER: It's too easy to blame the bad guys. That sort of corporations try to destroy unions 'cause that's what they do. Is that the labor movement, really for 30 years, 40 years, has, with, you know, with some exceptions of great work, not been focused on organizing private sector workers. It's not been focused. And I think workers are much more likely to organize if they think the consequence of organizing is life gets better than you get your brains blown out, which is really, when I knock on a door and say, "Do you want to join the union?" what most workers are thinking, "Oh, do I want to lose my job?" And so I think part of, we have this funny moment where we have to both inspire people to take a risk 'cause there's a vision grand enough to fight for, but also people have to think there's some hope of winning and that's not what we've offered—

BILL MOYERS: But there was a lot of hope of winning in Wisconsin and workers and their families did exactly what you are recommending. They got out in the streets. They had strikes. They had protests. They prolonged their demonstrations. And still you lost.

STEPHEN LERNER: Well, you know, what I would raise as a question is whether the primary field where we're going to change the country is through elections. And that that may not be the place. That may be, that's where, you know, one of the things a good organizer does is try to figure out is where can we maximize our power and how do we play in the field where we're most successful. And it's important we win the presidency and important we do politics, but thinking we're going to vote our way out of this mess when we have a declining base I think is a mistake.

BILL MOYERS: President Obama stayed on the sidelines in Wisconsin as he has in so many of these labor fights of the last three years. Do you feel betrayed by Obama?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Not at all. First of all, I think that it was correct for Obama not to go into Wisconsin because he would have become the issue. But the deeper question is I don't feel betrayed by Obama. I feel disappointed in Obama. But I think that if anyone has looked at who he was in 2008 they would have understood, this is a corporate liberal.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean by that?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: He is someone who sees his relationship with Wall Street, with the major corporations, that's the critical alliance for Obama. He was, he saw himself as preserving capitalism and he saw himself not as a champion of working people. He saw himself, he gave wonderful speeches to working people, but he does not see himself as the person who was saying, "We're going to take on the economic royalists."

STEPHEN LERNER: I think in 2008 the labor movement failed because we thought one human being was going to fix everything and we went into neutral. And, I think the real moment of lost opportunity was when the economic crisis hit. That unions and other progressives were waiting for somebody to fix it versus being in the street and really challenging the power of Wall Street. There was a moment where the entire country was questioning.

BILL MOYERS: Trade unions keep giving money to the Democrats because they, you think they'll come to your rescue and they don't. I mean why do, why does labor keep depending on a party that is always hanging it out to dry?

STEPHEN LERNER: I think the things that unions, and it's not just unions, but progressives need to think about, is who really has the country in a mess? And I think we've been very nervous about really, with red-hot anger, naming who the bad guys are and then talking about it in terms that resonate with people. Not abstractions about trillions of dollars. But talking about this teeny group of people at the top that are pillaging the country. And I think when we start to focus that and then have ways that people can act that's not just about rhetoric. I'll give you a specific example.

In California there is a program to pass a series of laws that defend homeowners and protect them from their homes being foreclosed on illegally, protect, if a bank forecloses on a home they now get fined $1,000 a day every day if they don't maintain the home. There's a whole set of legislation that's been passed.

Many of the people who should support it haven't supported it. Right? And so the way we've gone about getting them to support it is not to say we would or wouldn't support them, but we actually took people that were facing foreclose and took them to the lawn of some of those politics and did ads saying, "Here's Mary Smith. She faces foreclosure. This is her state representative and he won't, he won't do, support the law that would save her home.” It's those kinds of things that are pressuring politicians to do something that really matter. That are about workers saying, "We want to start getting our money back from Wall Street."

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: I think that the two party system is so undemocratic that it makes it very difficult for a third party to emerge. But labor needs to be thinking in those terms. We need to be creating worker candidates who are running. People that are representing the interests of economic justice, not simply funding someone who's going to kick our rear end the least.

STEPHEN LERNER: We feel like we've been screaming to the public for years, "You destroyed unions, you're going to destroy democracy," and folks didn't hear it. So I've sort of moved beyond, you know, the panic that labor movement's in trouble and start, you know, saying, "What is it that we actually do that doesn't make us dependent on, you know, liberals who don't really support unions who might be good on social issues?" And what are the kinds of things that let us start to build a movement that workers want to be part of and that can really challenge the power of capital.

I think the problem has been, is that people know they're weak and they're terrified of getting wiped off the face of the Earth. And so—

BILL MOYERS: Why are they weak?

STEPHEN LERNER: They're weak because we've been under a corporate assault for years going back to the '50s. I think the question that I wonder about is there are moments where we've won. You know, in my own life, in the Justice for Janitors campaign, hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers stood up to the real estate industry. There's right now, a strike in Louisiana of guest workers that work at a crawfish factory that's a supplier to Wal-Mart.

And I think we need to look at these moments where people are taking action and say, "How do we magnify those and what are, what are the seeds of a movement that we can learn from in there?" Because I think if we can spend all our time that we keep talking about why we're weak or why somebody did something that wasn't strong enough, we need to figure out what are the things that we can do.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: But I would say we're weak because in the late 1940s in the face of the Cold War organized labor ceased being a social movement. It gave up being the champion of economic justice and took on more of the form of a trade association. And so in that it lost the moral standing that it held with millions and millions of people. There was a point when people would say, even if they weren't in the union, "I'm not going to cross that picket line. I'm with the union."

Their issues are correct. Over the years as unions stepped further and further away from being the real champions of economic justice and I'm not just talking about a good speech. I mean real champions of economic justice, real allies of community groups that are fighting for them. When we stepped away from that of course we were going to become weaker. We were going to become more isolated. And we'd be looked at as special interests.

BILL MOYERS: Why the resentment among so many working and middle class people who've been exploited themselves? Why are voters not standing up?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Because it's it is easier for regular working people to start blaming someone that they can physically identify, someone that is not very strong, someone that cannot penalize them, rather than actually taking on the real powers. They're focusing on other weak, and I'm using the term broadly, weak sections of the population rather than focusing their attention on who really, who holds the power.

STEPHEN LERNER: But the thing on this that I think is really important is none of what's happening now is a surprise. For 30 years many people have said again and again and that if the private sector isn't organized and private sector workers lose pension plans and private sector workers lose their healthcare that they'll then be convinced they shouldn't fund it for other workers. In going forward there is no way out of this mess unless we organize millions of private sector workers. You will not have a public sector labor movement that survives if private sector workers are, have been impoverished in the country.

BILL MOYERS: And private sector are now how much, what percentage of the workforce?

STEPHEN LERNER: Only 6.9 percent of private sector workers are now in unions. It is now lower than it was at the start of the Great Depression. What the right wing has managed to do is get workers who have been crushed angry at somebody else. You know, their neighbor her, their neighbor who has a little bit better, than against Jamie Dimon. And we shouldn't be afraid to name names. Or the guys who are the cause of--

BILL MOYERS: Which raises the question why conservatives have been more successful than progressives in appealing to populist anger and populist aspirations?

STEPHEN LERNER: We don't connect with people 'cause we're not saying who the bad guys are. And the second part is if we're in bed with and afraid to take on the people who have caused the crisis in this country, then why would people rally behind us?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: But there's another issue, Bill, which is that the right wing has a story. And they have a story, particularly right wing populists have a story that is very compelling, particularly to white people. A story that's intertwined with the myth of the American dream. And they use that story as a way of focusing on scapegoats. Of moving people away from real issues of power. Of playing upon people's resentments. And what we on the left side of the aisle often do is throw facts at people. You know, we'll say to people there's this vast polarization of wealth. Well, that's true. But people can draw different conclusions about that, including that maybe if they play the right number they too can be on the upside of that.

We have to have a story that puts these pieces together. That explains to people how does Wall Street operate. What does this mean when we're talking about changing taxes? What is this issue of power? Who is to blame?

BILL MOYERS: But why haven't you done that? I mean—

STEPHEN LERNER: Totally. Well, here's the—

BILL MOYERS: We've been through the biggest economic collapse since the 1930s. And yet four years later the capitalist class that brought it on is riding high in politics. It's far more influential than labor is.

STEPHEN LERNER: But this is why I think we need to look at some of the good things that are happening. When we did the demonstrations at the shareholder meetings of Bank of America and Wells Fargo, we did a version of what Bill just described, which is we talked about housing, we talked about how they treated workers, we talked about their role in funding private prisons and we talked about their role in destroying the environment and we talked about money in politics. And all the groups who normally don't work together came together. And in the case of Wells Fargo, lots of people are arrested, both inside and outside the meeting we sat in. And we took all those issues and said, "You know what? It all stems, the story, from the same problem which is the power of giant banks." And so when we were in Charlotte, North Carolina, the city invoked an emergency order and said, it suspended civil liberties in downtown Charlotte for this march. But we built enough pressure that we backed them off and we sat down and took over downtown Charlotte for two hours.

But the thing I'm trying to pull out of this is issues that are normally separate and siloed, became the same issue. It's how to giant banks hurt the environment. How do they hurt workers. How do they hurt communities. How do they hurt immigrants. And in looking at that you can imagine the kind of movement we need to build. That's not separate movements. One movement to focus on who these guys are.

BILL MOYERS: I can understand and appreciate the victories that you win here and there. But there's another side of the ledger too. And I looked at the details of those votes in San Diego and San Jose where voters who went for Barack Obama in 2008 voted by large margins to cut the pensions of public employees. The folks you care about.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: I'm not surprised when people vote to cut pensions because what they look at is that they say, it's like crabs in the barrel. "These folks have something I do not have." And almost no one is saying to them, "Yes, that's true, but you lost it because of what happened and we need to fight to get it back."

STEPHEN LERNER: So let me give a specific example of what public employee unions could do that would make a different. What I'd love to see, which I think could actually demonstrate leadership, and the Chicago Teachers' Union actually did this. They said that they would take a wage freeze if the mayor would move his money out of all the banks that are continuing to foreclose on people in Chicago.

I think one of the things that we could do that would really make a difference. Is we need to turn collective bargaining into a vehicle not just for the narrow group of people who are bargaining, into a battle for the common good. So if public employee unions said, "We're willing to strike to force the city or the state to renegotiate debt with Wall Street," then I think people would rally behind them and say, "Oh, that's where the money went. It went to Wall Street. It's not goin' to those workers."

BILL MOYERS: Twenty California counties allow some public workers to make more in retirement than they did while working. And then there's one county executive retired at 62 so she could bring down a pension of $272,000 a year for life. In a county whose public pension system is underfinanced by 3/4 of a billion dollars. Now, against that minute particular, a telling story repeated over and again in an election, you're trying to say there's another story that will mitigate that example?

STEPHEN LERNER: Well, I tell you a funny piece of it is one of our weaknesses is that we're not, that we're afraid to sometimes just to say, "Yeah, that's wrong." And here are things—

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Yeah, exactly.

STEPHEN LERNER: --and we have this knee jerk defense. Of course it's absurd.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: People will respond to the story the you just told, because, again, it relates to something I was saying before, that it's easier to blame that public sector worker who is gaming the system than to go after the people in Wall Street who have walked away with billions. It's much easier.

BILL MOYERS: But Bill, with all due respect, the voters in San Diego, and San Jose see the particularities of this particular county—


BILL MOYERS: --executive more clearly than they do Jamie Dimon's situation.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: We have to provide some answers, better answers than we're giving. I don't mean just in simply explanations, but what people can do about the morass that they find themselves in. In addition to saying, "Yeah, this is a problem," we've got to say, "This is how we would--"

STEPHEN LERNER: So let me give a very specific example. There's 16 million homes, which is really 30 million people are underwater. Their homes are worth less than they paid for them. They're overlaid with all the key battleground states. So we've launched a thing called The Home Defender's League—

BILL MOYERS: We being?

STEPHEN LERNER: We being a bunch of different community groups and unions. We've, in the last couple weeks, called half a million people. We're having meetings around the country. We have a very simple demand. Every mortgage should be reset to current market value.

That would put $700 billion in the economy, create a million jobs, save the average homeowner $5,000 a year and it would extract the money from Wall Street who stole it from them in the first place. Very concrete. An answer. Good math. Economist supported. And we have a chance to win that.

BILL MOYERS: What’s the website?


BILL MOYERS: Many of the people who are in their homes are not losing them. They're property owners. They're paying taxes. And they're fed up with what they perceive to be the heavy burden imposed on them by public employees.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: And the person that you're describing that's paying those taxes and is feeling squeezed, we need to begin with the fact, you are being squeezed. There is a squeeze. It's not your imagination. So the question is then where is the money? Is the money to be found in crushing public sector workers or is the money to be found in reversing a practice over the last 50 years of decreasing taxes on corporations and on the wealthy?

Because the problem is that what's happened as the tax burden on the wealthy has shrunk, of course the people in the middle are bearing more and more of that. And they're resentful. And they should be.

STEPHEN LERNER The majority of those people, as mad as they may be at a public employee, know when in every poll, every discussion, the systems imbalanced, the people at the top are sucking up all the wealth. Financial capitalism is failing as a model in this country and in Europe. And I think as they start, if we survive this period and if we go on offense and let me just be clear. Offense is not defense yelling louder. Offense—

BILL MOYERS: So what is offense? What's your strategy? What do you want people to do who believe in what you've just said?

STEPHEN LERNER: So I would say, one, we should take the fight on underwater homeowners and foreclose that's already stopping, where people are occupying homes around the country. A wonderful way to connect with regular people in the fight against banks that's happening all over the country. There's a woman in Arizona, Lily Washington. Bank of America foreclosed on her while she was visiting her son who had been shot in Afghanistan and threw away her purple heart. A wonderful moment when they foreclosed when veterans, not radicals, regular veterans delivered a purple heart to her house saying, "We are with you in your battle against Bank of America." We need to look at the places where we can have battles we can win that put people in motion, that name Wall Street, that start winning victories. I'm worried less about Washington and much more worried about what happens to communities all over this country and how we start to fight back and win in those. And that's the kind of thing that builds the excitement and the energy to take on the bigger fight about how the system's been co-opted.

BILL MOYERS: Stephen Lerner, Bill Fletcher, thank you for joining us.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Thank you very much.

Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher on Targeting Bankers, Not Public Workers

Lost in the Supreme Court media chatter last week: a disturbing ruling in Knox vs. SEIU Local 1000 that restricts labor unions from directing collected dues toward political causes. There’s no similar limit on corporations, naturally – yet another indication that the power and status of modern unions is waning, especially when compared to the unbridled influence of Corporate America. With a sharp decline in union membership, a legion of new enemies, and a series of legal and legislative setbacks, can unions rebound and once again act strongly in the interest of ordinary workers?

Bill talks to two people who can best answer the question: Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher, Jr. The architect of the SEIU’s Justice for Janitors movement, Lerner directed SEIU’s private equity project, which worked to expose a Wall Street feeding frenzy that left the working class in a state of catastrophe. Fletcher took his Harvard degree to the Massachusetts shipyards, and worked as a welder before becoming a labor activist. He served as Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO, and is author of the upcoming book “They’re Bankrupting Us!”: And 20 Other Myths about Unions.

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  • Daniel Cook-Huffman

    Once again, Bill Moyers presents ideas and gathers people who are willing to stand up to power and to have a genuine conversation, free of fear, about the future and what we need to do – NOW – to begin to turn the tide against the powerful forces that diminish the lives of the 99%.  Kudos. 

  • C. L. Miller

    Bravo. Excellent coverage and salient points. 
    As the daughter of IBEW member, the splintering and posturing is destroying union credibility.  
    The Greatest Generation sacrificed, and we shame them by swallowing the  ‘me-first’ , ‘you deserve a break today’ pablum. Time to be community again, with a common cause of justice.  Time to educate and inculcate, instead of subjugate and incarcerate. 

  • Billandjudith

    My grandchildren live in St. Paul, not ar from your campus.  Perhaps we’ll meet one of these days.
    Bill Moyers

  • Stanc0307

    Bill Fletcher was spot on identifying the move from social activism to special interest as opening the door for the decline of unions.  As a manager in the chemical industry for 33 years I know I benefited from the efforts of our unions to improve worker conditions, their safety and work environment in particular.  I would like to believe much of the good would have happened anyway, but I know better.  While there are union negotiated benefits that are beyond reason in the public sector in some places, we must recognize these were negotiated and agreed to by people that we elected.  We and those who represented us are accountable for those benefits and should work with the unions to correct.  But these instances are the smoke screen that is being used to keep us from recognizing the real problem which is the money in politics from the corporate coffers.  Money being used to continue to paint the unions as the real enemy so we don’t realize the disparity and inequality in our lives and those at the top of the dollar mountain is directly related to our allowing the decline of the union and its role as the only representative of the little guy (or gal).  We must hold our elected representatives accountable and overturn Citizens United through Constitutional Amendment and we must force them to represent us, the voter.

  • sean

    Labor has lost it way. It now protects itself and thinks of the worker second

  • Labored

    Consumers are the engines of economic recovery.  Employers will have confidence once there is a long term consumer demand for the goods and services companies are providing. 

    Wage earners form unions to gain a democratic voice over future quality of life issues.  Unions not only directly help covered employees, they indirectly through the “trickle up” and “spill over” effects help non-covered employees as well because union wages and benefits become the benchmark for non-union employers.

    FDR’s statement is as true today as when he said it:

    “It is to the
    real advantage of every producer, every manufacturer, and every merchant to
    cooperate in the improvement of working conditions because the best customer of
    American Industry is the well-paid worker.” 

  • Labored

     Organized labor is a not-for-profit, member-driven, democratic,  service organization, which directly and indirectly improves the wages and well beings of all wage-earners. 

    Labor has four interconnected tools: collective bargaining, organizing the unorganized, political involvement, and building coalitions with like-minded groups.  It has always done its best work when the membership understands these tools and works actively to use all four.

    When union members are NOT actively educated to understand that their organization is NOT just an insurance policy against poor, arbitrary, greed-driven and capricious management decisions, but rather an organization whose strength relies on member solidarity…the union’s ability to do what it exists to do shrinks.

  • Tommetee

    Your union buddies haven’t figured out how outsource all evil to the successful & rich lumped as 1 under the moniker ‘1%’. Your ‘poet cynic-ate’ seems to say claim godhood… don’t let the absurdity shatter the illusion as shallow flip-flops of snippets from the Word of God fill one’s mind – an overwhelming obstacle to true wisdom & hardening of the fool’s attitude (there is no God, I can do whatever I find pleasing). Calling such a poem one of your favorites at long last settled for me that the harm of your errors is intended.  I am sad. I love you.

    The rich have great & unmet responsibility, as do all. Unions have balanced the power market (+&-) to good & to bad. Mocking & deceiving about the One God who is our only hope, who loves us is very poor career choice. Searching for truth is searching for God. The message of the Word of God is not disease & death but reconciliation & resurrection. Most people won’t test the miracles & claims of Christianity. The root of our founding documents – inalienable rights are alienated by you, me & humans repeatedly all day long. They are inalienable because they are reasserted throughout creation & time by the Creator. Thanks be to God!

  • Bhavelock

    What does God have to do with with the role of labour unions?

  • Ken

    Layers of  ONIONS

  • Yaz

    Thank you for this.  As a union member, so nice to finally hear the criticisms I have been voicing for years.  Long past time we identify the characteristics of the society we want to contribute to co-creating and figure out how to do it instead of fighting battles we have already lost.  How about having David Korten and Gus Speth on?

  • Steve Retzer

    How can I get you to talk to MAPE in Minnesota?  I’m a union member who would like eith Bill Fletcher or Steve Lerner to talk with them.

  • TheRoc

    All I heard was “It’s not our fault”. I loved being in a construction union for 5yrs, but the brotherhood was full of Inlaws and Outlaws,(just like politicians) making it a dangerous place to work. A total disregard for production quality and employee responsibility, forced manufactures to turn their backs on American workers. The “It’s not my job” attitude, is why voters are sick of hearing union members cry about “THEIR” lose of living standards, while they show absolute contempt toward, quote:”Scabs”. Try showing some sympathy, instead of threats in union recruiting and negotiating efforts, and maybe  workers won’t be more scared of unions, than they are of business owners whom actually provide the paychecks.

  • Anonymous

    Your juandiced views aside the statistics are pretty clear in respect to the plight of the American worker and while you want to lay blame on the unions there is ample evidence available to suggest responsibility for the diminished capacity of the working class  rests elsewhere.

    Your anti-union animus prevents you from taking a reasoned and balanced approach to the issue.

  • JonThomas

     So, it’s not your fault?

  • Anonymous


  • JonThomas

     Lol, good answer. :)

    I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to go around, but it is a shame that people have so easily accepted the…’unions are bad, very, very bad…’ indoctrination.

  • Anonymous

    I think we are on the same wave length. Working folks are sometimes their own worst enemies.

    Have a nice day.

  • David F., N.A.

    After Mr. Moyers’ lead-in, in regards to Karl Rove, and then this interview, I remembered this article from 2004:

    Karl Rove’s Master Plan: A One-Party America

    Step two is to destroy unions. They, too, give greatly to Democrats. Every chance he gets, Rove has a Republican member of congress drop a provision into a bill that weakens collective bargaining rights. This was the Democrats’ main complaint against the Bush-backed version of the Homeland Security Bill. A key provision reduced the ability of federal workers to negotiate for better pay. Every time an industry is on its knees, Rove sees a chance to get government to help them, but only if its workers will make concessions to get the company going again. These are always about the strength of unions. If he can destroy unions, Rove will take away another critical source of money for Democrats. If Mr. Bush wins another term, there will be draconian measures enacted reducing the negotiating power of unions in this country and their right to organize and negotiate.

    So, unfortunately, this appears to be a plan that is coming to fruition.

  • Anonymous

    “UNIONs” have become a hybred managerial specialization of some administrative level that exists …not as an an extension of real labor…but as a service industry that acts as a symmetrical counterbalance to the executive administrations they act to battle…and in the faceoff…they have become greater reflections of administration then of their working element.  Unions have forgotten that the core of Labor Activism is in ORGANIZATION… in “ORGANIZING” itself. 

    For Unions today the act of “organizing” is merely an enlistment program…not an proactive focus and unified force against economic injustice itself.  Unions are failing and dwindling because corporate marketing dwarfs their cause…often focuses only on a bargaining table disagreement.  The tactics utilized are a union-busting industry worth billions and yet most people do not recognize these ritual tactics when they are professionally applied against their own union cause.  Unions are failing because they fight corporate on their own playing field and only when necessary.  The rhetoric of “SOLIDARITY” is a fairytale.  It has become business…a business that is dwarfed by big Corporate Money interests that share one thing,,,and one thing only…an unfettered power control over all market forces.

    Communication and technical political coordination has dramatically changed in the past decades while UNIONs are living not only in the past but as disconnected Agent/Client brokers removed from the direct issues.  Contract negotiations become a rationale for being in existence and  become activated every few years in isolated and fragmented battles that are localized and specialized by the corporate medium being produced, processed or otherwise serviced.  Collective bargaining is pure rhetoric that is meant to diminish the “communist plot” legacy that corporate money orchestrated in the mid 2oth century.  Unions have become service industry business, hired essentially like any other business.  In the methodology of denial, these silo agencies protect themselves and fail to adapt or adopt to TRUE Labor issues and confrontations needed to offset real coherent corporate assaults that “accumulate” homogenous tactics even while diversified (divide and conquer) “LABOR” scrambles to rationalize its base to an unsophisticated and dependent population of individuals…who all believe that these “professionals” know how to counter attack the assaults against their livelihood.  There is “moral hazard” built into this as well, and it is easy to progressively capitulate to incremental challenges then hold the line with a fight that is difficult to manage.  So on the first front what we have is a new managerial sector of compliance and surrender, since truly the line between Union Leaders , representatives and literal “managers (as agent/client relationship exists…)”  has been blurred and the defense lines between corporate strategies and “union” skin has been offset from the ground floor of social labor as a full spectrum network beyond 1950s “production” standards.

    The bottom line is that union has failed to evolve with corporate society and its technological advantages from capital, political leverages, marketing techniques and “professional” expertise against “UNIONS” that stand still in the water and wait to be sunk.

    Basic market techniques are utilized over and over that are never successfully disclosed and exposed.  New tactical developments against the labor markets are devised and time tested right before the eyes of a hundred thousand trade unions that locally feel it is not their job to  counter or expose.  One example here is “contingency”
    workers which are being processed under “flagship” corporate structures that can collapse their structure at will when necessary and leave the labor at a total loss.  Corporate calls these “independent” workers rather than scabs from the past. 

    Once again it becomes framing the language for outcome, communication technology (backed by massive revenue support which gets built into the price structures of our economy), and the advantage of a medium of market technology that drives both political advantages and consensus while “labor” and “unions” are segmented and fragmented into benign specialties that can be easily set up as the drain on the public purse. 

    The real question is why these same ritual tactics can be utilized to bust unions consistently while a comprehensive counter-narrative remains as foot notes to individualized local battles …ad nauseum! 

    The first action for Unions is to get into the 21st century and coordinate themselves accordingly.  Hint…the 1950s is no longer a good model for Unions to practice, and the “professionalization” of Union Administrations must be restructured to directly “DEPEND” upon the survival of its base labor interests…When they fail…they should get out of the way and let fresh leadership confront these dogs of war! – Exposes the Practices and Tactics of Union Busting

    LEARN the truth about how and why companies hire union busters and

    engage in union busting tactics in an effort to destroy union organizing

    campaigns. Learn more about the billion-dollar union busting industry

    commonly called “union avoidance” or “union free.”

    What people here do not seem to realize is that they are now blaming
    and attacking themselves. pointing to each other…and further
    segmenting and fragmenting the basic consensus of their own essential
    core agenda.

    This plays right into the momentum of the 1% incentives and creates a
    reinforcement for the anti-union narrative to continue developing as
    the mainstream of this historic confrontation.


    The formula is essentiall the identical patterned techniques and model used for “UNION-BUSTING”


    Episode 1 – Union Busters; The Use of “Fear”

    Union One – No Union Busters Project – Episode 1; Fear   nobusters


    Union One-No Union Busters Project-Episode 2; Who Are They



    U1TV – Union Busting 101-“The Role of Supervisors” Episode 3



    U1TV- Union Busting 101- “Fighting Back; Exposure” Episode 4



  • Anonymous

    I am not sure what you are marketing but I would like to take issue with your essay as it appears to me you overlook the fact of the casualization of labour with government and the corporate community acting in concert.

    If you are a student of labour history you will know that the union movement was introduced in Britain
    and was transplanted here in Canada and the USA as a result of the colonization of this part of North America primarily by the British and to a lesser extent France.
    You will also know that the industrial revolution gave rise to the need for a collective voice in the workplace and that this was initially resisted by the state and the capitalist class. Initially employers refused to recognize the collective interests of the workers and as a result violent and deadly clashes occurred eventually giving rise to the codification of organizing and collective bargaining. The central idea was to have an orderly process both with respect to collective bargaining and contract administration.

    Over the years the corporatist state has yielded to the demands of the business community in weakening the financial underpinning of unions. At the state level you have the so called right to work laws that have had the effect of undermining the unions and bargaining power. When you add to this technological change and the offshoring of jobs it should be obvious to anyone paying attention that the deck is stacked in favour of the privileged and to the detriment of the working class. 

    There is no magic answer for the disenfranchisement of the working class but, among other things, it may be time for some civil disobedience and taking it to the street.

  • Anonymous
    There is very little continuity between 19th century class Labor movements in Europe and the contemporary issues that are destroying the integrity of organizing forces from Union activism today.  The occupy “movement” is a Labor movement, not the other way around from the Unions who were all standing still eating their meals.

    Today’s Union administrations are trained in colleges:
    see for example;

    Union Labor Relations Representative Needed – Union Jobs …

    UNION LABOR RELATIONS REPRESENTATIVE NEEDED. Lansing, MI … A Bachelor’s degree is required and advanced degree is preferred. Salary and …

    Online Labor Relations Degrees

    – Similarto Online Labor Relations Degrees

    When labor relations specialists are called into meetings with employers, workers , or union representatives, they may play the role of mediator. In this role, they …

    Graduate Study Opportunities – National Labor College

    Pursue your thirst for knowledge with the National Labor College’s graduate study … to address issues and challenges relevant to labor representatives, and to … a Master’s Degree in Union Leadership and Administration (ULA) at its Labor …

    Union Labor Representative Jobs – Dr. M. Rousseau, PLLC

    Search Union Labor Representative jobs and related careers at Dr. M. Rousseau , … Position Description: … relations experience(Master’s Degree in Labor …

    In the organized movements of the past 100 years, the pain and suffering drove the leadership into action from the “masses”. 

    Today, managerialism and normalization of perverted capital incentives have corrupted the very rationale for activism and risk taking to the point where unions have, as in other sectors of the rconomy become virtual managers and agents to their working clients. 

    Wake up! The new eclectronic flash/crash economy is a  professionalized exploitation of power controls over contemporary techno-economic and sociopolitical forces that are being harnessed under ownership contracts and monetarized debt loads over people by utilizing the intermediation of market necessities to orchestrate crisis driven policies that tighten the noose around a free democratic society.

    We are not in England of the 19th Centruy and we are not under a manual labor economy…stop the rhetoric of  class bs language that captures class defeatism as an unresolved  academic theoretical dialectic.  The language you evoke is dead.  Get over it.  We are fighting marketed forces that know how to manipulate the OLD ways.  Wake up and join the fight.

  • Carmen Acosta

    The tools or role of unions that you’ve described are interconnected and should be excercised in concert. If one of the tools is not utilized or ignored, for sure, the mechanics of representing workers will fail and members’ dissatisfaction will negatively impact union’s ability to unleash the collective powers when/as needed

  • Anonymous



    LABOR !  


  • Anonymous



    LABOR !  


  • Ardi Hominid

    Should there be an AARP for workers? More people would join because it would not be so tied to the individual workers job and company. It should not replace unions, but enhance the work that unions do. It could fill some gaps and bring workers together who do not have a union. Just a thought.

  • HopeWFaith

    Obama made all working class people believe that he was going to have our backs, so that it would be easier for us to work peacefully about the methods of improving our job options and our democracy. He never said, “Oh, by the way, I’m going to appoint nothing but Corporatists, and Wall Street exies to all posts in my cabinet, so be ready folks. You might need more than just a hope and a little change in order for things to improve.”

    The Supreme Court has almost single handedly undermined and betrayed the working class people. That’s a lot of families who’ve been affected. Futures have been diminished, altered. They crush the workers, as these guys put it, and they set up house in Indonesia and hire people there at 1/10th the salary to do our jobs.

    The ONLY thing that keeps some jobs here, are the demands of the consumers to be able to have a point of contact that is stateside, speaks clear English, and has the comprehension to understand their issues clearly. That demand from consumers would have an even greater impact, if people would get off their lazy personalities and speak up to company Leaders/Boards of Directors.

  • HopeWFaith

    Love this idea about making mortgages equal to current value. Great concept and it is backed by logic and economists. Go get em, Stephen and Bill.

    And I love the concept of focusing in on how to develop plans that support all tax payers who are feeling “squeezed” by our tax burden. Yes, we all need to unite and stop pitting our town’s workers against the tax payers. That will never get us anywhere. Pitting People against People is a recipe for supporting exactly what the KOCHS and other Republicans want to do with our government – totally destroy it.

  • JC

    Unions were once the lynchpin of what made this country great. Somewhere along the way, they got too politically motivated and forgot what unionizing is all about…….to organize the workers so they don’t get taken advantage of by the fat cats who own and manage the corporations. Management and unions don’t belong in the same bed together….it’s committing adultery in the worst sense. The marriage of the worker and the union is forever broken when this happens. Unions need to get back to the business of organizing, seeking better working wages, conditions, safety for the employees, benefit packages, retirement accounts, protecting workers rights, and representing workers in class actions, grievances, personnel actions, and generally what unions are best suited to do. Politics and lobbying should be left to the political arm of the union, not the main core. Serving the worker who pays the dues should be and needs to, again, be the main focus of unions.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, labor is a lost cause. In a nutshell, America looked at the policies and programs that were implemented from FDR until Reagan, which took the US to its height of wealth and productivity, and chose to reverse course, doing just the opposite. In similar crises in the past, the poor and middle class, workers and the jobless, ultimately united to to push back, to everyone’s benefit. That can’t happen this time. Middle class workers embraced a range of policies that work powerfully to phase out middle class workers (workfare replacement labor, etc.), for better or worse.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about concerning Obama appointees. Unlike the poor, middle class workers have the money and means to organize and push back, if they feel like it. They can organize walkouts, go on strike — for that matter, middle class workers have the power to bring America/the economy to a halt, if that’s what it takes to force their representatives in govt to represent them. They just don’t feel like it.

  • Anonymous

    Nope, our history disputes this.We’ve been in this mess before, when the richest few gained too much power, to the great harm of the country. Today, there isn’t enough left of middle class labor alone to push back, nor are they (obviously) inclined to do so. During similar crises in the past, the poor and middle class, workers and the jobless, ultimately united to push back — to everyone’s benefit. That can’t happen this time. We’ve been divided and conquered. What the rich are now doing to the middle class is simply what the middle class already did to the poor.

  • Anonymous

    Many actually have been successfully co-opted by management/corporate interests. Unions are whatever the workers choose/allow them to be. Union members ARE the union, and they have the power to make whatever changes they wish. If they feel like it. We aren’t exactly seeing mass walkouts and strikes.