The Secret War Against American Workers
Continued from previous page
In this job environment, it's easy to turn not just on others, but on yourself. Reflecting on what she will do without a job and unemployment benefits, Juanita wonders if the problem isn't the economy, but the choices she made in life. "I left home when I was sixteen and lived in my own places, had my children, and got married," she says nervously, continually folding and refolding a local newspaper. "I should have gone to school and did a lot more things to make myself more marketable earlier in life. Now I'm left having to start over again."
A look at corporate opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), whose passage in Congress is a central demand of organized labor, offers a glimpse of how persistently companies seek to disadvantage their workers. EFCA would allow workers to form a union when a majority of them sign union cards in a given workplace. "Card check," as it is frequently called, enables them to organize unions without the need for an election. In a November column surveying the business elite's response to the Act, Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist Thomas Frank wrote: "Card check is about power. Management has it, workers don't, and business doesn't want that to change."
In Frank's estimation, the current struggle over EFCA is the latest incarnation of a constantly evolving struggle between workers and employers. For the under- or unemployed crowding into this center in Philadelphia, the current recession isn't a time-out from the normal struggle, it's more like a new open season for corporate attacks on them.
Right now, for Juanita, Chris, and others at this center, there are actually two wars going on, and only one of them seems to have caught the attention of labor and business reporters. The headlines about the first read: Desperate Companies Forced to Cut Jobs. But many here seem to be experiencing a second war in which businesses are using bad times to act in ways they couldn't in the best of times.
Shouldn't reporters be heading out in search of this one-sided, covert struggle? Isn't it time for the second business war of our moment to make a few headlines of its own?
Robert S. Eshelman is an independent journalist and audio host at TomDispatch.com. His articles have appeared in the Nation, In These Times, and Abu Dhabi's the National. He can be emailed at email@example.com.