I’ve spent several days feeling “there’s something very wrong with this picture”, (the picture of ‘what humanity is doing’ while viewing two locations simultaneously). I see a human rights issue link between union-busting in Wisconsin and freedom fighting in the Middle East.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (MLK, Jr). I post to encourage others to “look at what I see” and to give it thought.
I do not want to inappropriately match the two. Americans have no comparable experience to the freedom call presently underway in the Middle East. There was minimal ‘massacre’ action by British troops against the colonists, while people living in the Middle East have, for decades, been under regimes willing to do violence against the people. During America’s revolutionary war, armed capacity of British and colonists was relatively evenly matched. This match is starkly contrasted on streets in the Middle East, where the people have stones and hand weapons if any (and are determined to not use them), and ruling regimes have modern war equipment. (I do not claim authoritative knowledge on either of these but believe, generally, my contrasts are valid.)
The risk to Wisconsin protesters is nowhere close to the profound and utter risk faced by protesters in the Middle East. Comparisons of blood risk aside, both events are about Great Wealth wanting to minimize responsibility to common weal . In both cases, the heart of the struggle is citizen righteous demand to live with dignity and autonomous freedom.
The Wisconsin legislature intends to re-enslave labor by outlawing most negotiation rights. There is an American myth, passionately believed by ultra-conservative economic views, that “labor unions”, and more pointedly public sector unions, are “all about greed”. Some of the worst massacres against Americans on their own soil were during development of labor unions:
Ludlow Colorado Massacre, 1914, excerpt:
“That evening, under cover of darkness, the militiamen entered the camp and set fire to tents, killing two women and eleven children who were sheltering from the shooting in a pit below a tent, thirteen other people were also shot dead during the fighting. …No National Guardsmen was ever prosecuted over the killings, even though sixty-six people had been killed by the time violence ended.“
Historically there is strong positive relationship between union labor negotiations and private sector wages and salaries. Labor union insistence on employee dignity has been essential to power balance between workers and management, especially higher level management. We have seen a general demise of labor unions for the same cause that non-union workers find themselves with dwindling opportunity. Corporate power has ‘gone global’. Automation and out-sourcing to non-unionized labor countries for the sake of corporate mega-profit is in keeping with our “maximize profit” style of “economic health”. Statistics strongly suggest that public employee income is slightly less than comparable private sector employment,(when education required is included). One might ask, “What income do private sector employees imagine they will enjoy if public sector unions are dramatically eroded? Legislation that targets unions as ‘culprit’ takes American freedom history backward.
Americans, on their own soil, have already fought bloody battles on behalf of human dignity. Our Civil War was extremely brutal, yet necessary to rid ourselves of slavery, freeing thousands from the most extreme form of subjugation known to humanity. We followed with multiple deadly strikes and demonstrations, as workers demanded right to organize for wage-condition negotiation.
It is worse than ironic that ultra-conservative arguments use “glorious history of American struggle against oppression”, (thinking only, as they seem to do, of a single event, our revolutionary war), to empassion themselves against what remains of union strength. It is close to frightening that they are oblivious to the entire range of struggles, against oppression and in favor of human dignity, that have been our call across time.
It is completely inconsistent for American ultra-conservative views to scape-goat ordinary “people power” such as may be found in labor unions, while ignoring corporate lobby power and power of trans-nationals (akin to the East India Company, whose British monopoly grant was directly linked to the Boston Tea Party!)
It is completely inconsistent for us praise the passion of Middle East cries for freedom while at the same time we busily dismantle the last vestiges of our own.
The intensity and immediate consequences of events in the respective locations are at opposite ends of an imagined scale, but both emerge from the same source.
Both emerge from the inalienable, inborn, spirit of essential right to self-determination.
Self-determination, individual autonomy, history shows, is blocked whenever economic power is seriously out of balance.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“Everything is model for everything else!” –MA