Republicans and their corporate masters have long sought to dismantle unions to break one of the strongest collective efforts Americans have as a path to the middle class. The five day, 40 hour workweek with weekends free for family time or just a chance to recharge? Unions. Minimum wage across the country so employers have to pay a fair, but far outdated now, wage to everyone? Unions. Preventing a boss who wants to fire everyone so they can hire friends and family instead? Unions. It is an extensive list of accomplishments that unions have achieved the past several decades. Unions, like all organizations, have internal issues but the collective good they have achieved for every single one of us outweighs any of that.
Unions have been under assault for decades to turn back these protections. America has turned more to the short-term, Vegas-style high of Wall Street over the simplicity of allowing profit-sharing and extended leave for their workers. The belief is everyone can get as rich as those who control the system if they just play enough times. But no one–no one–gets as wealthy unless they are part of the system. Shareholders in big city office suites, not the union steward, control the means of production. What was just an assault is now an all out war. A Republican White House occupied by a Wall Street sham, a Republican Congress controlled by corporate lobbyists, and a court system packed with corporate-leaning judges and Supreme Court justices (and another on the way in).
One of the battles in the war is playing out in Three Forks right now. Workers from the Imerys Talc America plant have been locked out of the job after corporate masters in Europe and the U.S. demanded they sacrifice pension and medical benefits. Remember the days when a life spent toiling in the factories meant you could live the rest of your life able to live in relative comfort and afford the medical bills required to take care of the injuries you sustained for that work? I do too. It was a glorious time in America and when it is gone we miss all of the things we are taking for granted.
Imerys will bring in replacement workers, people forced to cross a picket line in front of the people’s whose jobs they are filling. This a scene that has been replayed over and over again in America’s history and it would seem just a simple labor squabble until you consider the context. The June 2018 “Janus” decision in the U.S. Supreme Court cut to the core of what keeps unions alive. Framed as a First Amendment case, it was anything but. Sponsors of the case and its attorneys knew that taking out the heart of union stability and its ability to lobby for legislation would usher in the expedited end. With packed courts hand-chosen by Trump and Republican lawmakers in D.C., that end draws near and we will soon be back to the era of unfettered workers abuses portrayed by Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair. If you are a fan of the Great Depression, this is a great time to be alive.
The Republicans currently in national power desperately want to turn back the protections so many have achieved in the last half century. These protections made America a more balanced and decent place to live but they could be gone in an instant. So let us put our fingers in the water and start a ripple. Let the picketers in Three Forks know we have their backs and that we understand the larger fight they are having for us here in little Montana.
An injury to one is the concern of all.