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Chomsky: Uprising in the USA?

World-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses the protests in defense of public sector employees and unions in Wisconsin.

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NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. There has been a huge attack against private sector unions. Actually, that’s been going on since the Second World War. After the Second World War, business was terrified about the radicalization of the country during the Depression and then the war, and it started right off—Taft-Hartley was 1947—huge propaganda campaigns to demonize unions. It really—and it continued until you get to the Reagan administration.

Reagan was extreme. Beginning of his administration, one of the first things was to call in scabs—hadn’t been done for a long time, and it’s illegal in most countries—in the air controller strike. Reagan essentially—by "Reagan," I mean his administration; I don’t know what he knew—but they basically told the business world that they’re not going to apply the labor laws. So, that means you can break unions any way you like. And in fact, the number of firing of union organizers, illegal firing, I think probably tripled during the Reagan years.

Then, in fact, by the early '90s, Caterpillar Corporation, first major industrial corporation, called in scabs to break a strike of industrial workers, UAW. That's—I think the only country that allowed that was South Africa. And then it spread.

When Clinton came along, he had another way of destroying unions. It’s called NAFTA. One of the predicted consequences of NAFTA, which in fact worked out, was it would be used as a way to undermine unions—illegally, of course. But when you have a criminal state, it doesn’t matter. So, there was actually a study, under NAFTA rules, that investigated illegal strike breaking organizing efforts by threats, illegal threats, to transfer to Mexico. So, if union organizers are trying to organize, you put up a sign saying, you know, "Transfer operation Mexico." In other words, you shut up, or you’re going to lose your jobs. That’s illegal. But again, if you have a criminal state, it doesn’t matter.

Well, by measures like this, private sector unions have been reduced to, I think, maybe seven percent of the workforce. Now, it’s not that workers don’t want to join unions. In fact, many studies of this, there’s a huge pool of workers who want to join unions, but they can’t. And they’re getting no support from the political system. And part of the reason, not all of it, is these $2 billion campaigns. Now, this really took off in the late '70s and the ’80s. You want to run for office, then you're going to have to dig into very deep pockets. And as the income distribution gets more and more skewed, that means you’re going to have to go after Jeffrey Immelt and Lloyd Blankfein, and so on and so forth, if you want to even be in office. Take a look at the 2008 campaign spending. Obama way outspent McCain. He was funded—his main source of funding was the financial institutions.

AMY GOODMAN: Now they’re saying he’s going to raise, Obama is going to raise $1 billion for the next campaign.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, and it’ll probably be more than that, because they’re predicting $2 billion for the whole campaign, and the incumbent usually has advantages.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, we have to break. We’re going to come right back.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, world-renowned political dissident. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Noam Chomsky. He has authored over a hundred books; his latest, Hopes and Prospects, among others.

Professor Chomsky, I want to ask you about former President Ronald Reagan. A very big deal is made of him now on the hundredth anniversary of his birth. Last year President Obama signed legislation establishing a commission to mark the centennial.

 
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