Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yes, They Did

It's now clear that the refusal of Senate Republicans to go along with Big Three bailout bill was based entirely on a directive to fire the first salvo on that party's war on unions. An article in today's Los Angeles Times notes an email circulated to GOP senators before the vote:

"This is the Democrats' first opportunity to pay off organized labor after the election," read an e-mail circulated Wednesday among Senate Republicans. "This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it."

Republicans didn't care that the failure of one or more of the automakers would affect more than the employees of those companies, that parts suppliers and dealerships, for example, would also be hit hard by the failure. They also didn't care that the loss of all those jobs would complicate recovery from the current economic recession. All that mattered was that they deliver a blow to the organized work force.

Opening salvo? More like one of the biggest mistakes ever, given that there are more working people than Republican senators, and those working people are the ones suffering the most right now. The Republicans keep decrying the use of the "Class War" card by Democrats, yet the Senate vote makes it clear who the real bullies are.

And, more to the point, the timing couldn't be worse, which makes the one bit of good news I found this morning so significant. That small local in Chicago that engaged in some old-fashioned protest behavior by staging a sit-in at Republic Windows succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. From the NY Times:

By the time their six-day sit-in ended on Wednesday night, the 240 laid-off workers at this previously anonymous 125,000-square-foot plant had become national symbols of worker discontent amid the layoffs sweeping the country. Civil rights workers compared them to Rosa Parks. But all the workers wanted, they said, was what they deserved under the law: 60 days of severance pay and earned vacation time.

And to their surprise, their drastic action worked. Late Wednesday, two major banks agreed to lend the company enough money to give the workers what they asked for.

“In the environment of this economic crisis, we felt we were obligated to fight for our money,” Armando Robles, a maintenance worker and president of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represented the workers, said in Spanish.
[Emphasis added]

I am cautiously optimistic.

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