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Unions in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

Francis Scott Key’s famous lyric claims we live in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Aspirationally, we applaud his word choice. Currently, we’d like to be able to agree, but we have a few problems with the description, given the state of the Union at present.

Affirmation of Rights

Remember the historical lesson: Rights must be defended, if you want to keep them. To defend your rights takes courage and determination. Those qualities are the foundation of heroes, whence cometh F. Scott Key’s praise that our earlier defenders of freedom had given us a place to live, which he called “the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Stand UP for your rights. That way, you will be able to pass them on to your children. Give your children something to sing about, when they learn the words! Vote in the primaries, and support candidates who support Unions. Vote in the elections, too. Do not leave the voting to others who do not have your interests at heart.

Rights are expressions of our Freedoms

We assert, and discuss below, what’s happened to the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” In that context, Let’s have a look at one of our most important freedoms: freedom of association – the right to spend time with people that we want to spend time (or work) with. Another fundamental and associated freedom is freedom of assembly.

Freedom of association means we can pick our friends, our organizations, and our causes that we want to support. It’s recognized as a human right, a political right, and a civil liberty. Freedom of association gives us the right to join together, to organize, and to pursue collective action for the benefit of the members of the group.

Related to, but distinct from freedom of association is freedom of assembly. Freedom of assembly gives us the right to assemble in public places, and is a fundamental requirement if a group of like-minded citizens want to protest the action of either government or perhaps a company. These two freedoms are the basis for both Trade Unions and right-wing associations, including think tanks.

Let’s move on to Unions

First, let’s state an absolute: Nobody WANTS to join a Union. The only reason workers choose to form a Union is to protect themselves from the ravages of bad or malevolent Management.

If your company’s Management is treating workers unfairly, or unreasonably, you can form a Union. Now you have TWO forces you have to deal with: demands of your managers, and the demands of your Union. The worker always winds up in the MIDDLE, between those two forces. The ONLY reason for forming a Union is to provide protection from unreasonable or unfair Management demands. NOBODY deliberately decides to create a situation in which they are between a rock and a hard place without the benefits of Union protection greater than the surrender of workers’ freedom to the Union. Moreover, Union membership costs money, may require that you walk a picket line one day, and even die to protect your rights.

For the above reasons, companies tend to get the Unions they deserve. Abusive companies get strong Unions which fight back on the workers’ behalf. Good companies don’t get Unions at all, because they’re not needed. Companies with poor Management may get Unions somewhere in between the two “bookends” above. The more contemptuously Management regards employees, the worse becomes the Management – Union relationship. The union’s reason for existence is to protect the workers.

A Union is about group protection. That is: protection from Employer indifference or malovence. The solidarity of the group of workers, a Union and collective Union actions in a dispute, is the ONLY protection the workers have against malevolent Management.

One fact is clear: Employers do not have the welfare of their employees uppermost in their minds. Some employers may regard employees as assets, to be protected and nurtured, but most regard employees as a cost, and costs shall be cut at any opportunity.

One joins a Union to protect oneself from Management, and Management gets the Union it deserves.

Except under right-to-work rules, because right-to-work rules are designed to break the solidarity of Unions by making Union membership optional, and removing the power, the funding, of a unified group to negotiate employment pay and conditions on a more equitable basis, and for groups of people to affect the outcome of election for public officials.

In a non-Union environment the employee is isolated and does not have much, if any, bargaining power. A group, with solidarity, is essential to provide the employees with some bargaining power, and the group’s power includes working to rule, and striking.

Right to work legislation attacks solidarity, and removal of the right to strike removes the power of the group. Both of these practices are rampant in US jurisprudence, and equate to an assault, a successful assault, on human rights.
Are you free to join a Union? – Yes. Is the Union free to demand solidarity? No because under right to work legislation, the group’s power derived from solidarity, based on the freedom of association, is removed. Is a Union free to withdraw from the workplace (strike)? – No, because the various state governments have curtailed this right.

A current example in Illinois.

There are no bad Unions, Union members are you or I. There are indifferent and malevolent Management both running Unions and as Employers.

Unions would be kept honest by complete transparency, both financial and in their governance. Sunlight is good for everybody, though. If governments legislate for complete transparency for Unions, they must also accept complete transparency for both Government and Business. It is unacceptable for government to demand Union transparency without giving us the same assurance, based on complete government and corporate transparency. One-sided transparency merely further weakens one side of the bargaining structure, is patently unfair, and probably not equal protection.

Corporate Management believe in the power of money, look out for themselves first, then pay lip service to shareholders, and regard employees as “cost units,” and do not wish for employees to have rights.

Support Unions, and challenge right to work legislation as an attack on your rights. Either defend rights on lose them.

Land of the Free

For us to live in the land of the free, we need a government which wants to support that aspiration. Otherwise, we pay taxes, taxes, and more taxes, while the 1% are given a release, by paying the same politicians we elect.

The government has to support freedom, courage, and uprightness in order for us to live as free citizens, in a free land. When the government fails to support freedom, we find ourselves under the thumb of government and facing the fist of Money, embodied by Management, who know they can count on the government to back them up. That’s not freedom – it is feudalism, or fascism, and is totalitarianism – a peon can hardly distinguish between them during the strokes of whipping, where Government sides with money, and against its citizens.

As a result, the lower and middle classes pay too much in taxes, because the wealthy reward pliable politicians with monies that are euphemistically called “campaign contributions.” Some politicians get rewarded after they leave politics. This corruption causes the politics to become a money game.

Money wins, people, labor, lose.

For example: Social security takes 15% of your first dollar earned, if self-employed and 7.5% if otherwise employed. If you income is not earned, is passive, then there is no taking, a clear example of favoring money over labor.

If your own property or pay rent you pay property taxes, because a government effectively owns all property. If you don’t believe that try not paying rent or property taxes to test the system – we assure you will become homeless.

Free to pay taxes? That’s your freedom. You are only “free” if you have enough money to support your “free” lifestyle; you are free if you continually purchase your freedom. It’s a sad tale, but true. The US may once have been “the land of the free,” but not anymore.

Home of the Brave

Along with attacking the economic viability of the lower and middle classes, our politicians are trying to scare us into giving up our freedoms. If you doubt that statement, just look at the changes that have taken place in the last 14 years. (You could legitimately go back a bit further, but 2000/2001 makes an interesting starting point, so we’ll begin there.)

From 2001, our politicians have been succeeding in continually scaring us. “Terrorists are on your doorstep!” they tell us. It’s not true; Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning or be run over while crossing the street than to be attacked by terrorists. Why do the politicians lie to us this way? Scared people are more pliable, and if you’re scared, you may be willing to give up some of those freedoms that our forefathers fought for, starting with the War of Independence.

Terrorism, from Time Magazine

Obama:

don’t fear terrorists, but do authorize me to use military force against them

Indefinite wars, continuing or running into one another, over a period of years or decades, allows the Mainstream Media to keep scaring us, and enables the politicians to keep reducing our freedoms, until we don’t have any left. If we want to be “the home of the brave,” we need to take our courage in our hands, and rebuke both the Mainstream Media and our politicians for playing a wicked and a dangerous game.

If you noticed, the Time article cited above stated:

… 40% of Americans are very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their family will become a victim of terrorism—a slightly higher percentage than when Obama became President in 2009

There’s another specter out there, that’s also scaring Americans. According to the AARP running out of money is a fear.

Death may be frightening, but to a majority of older Americans, the possibility of outliving their savings is even worse.

One more example of the fear that the media, in particular, is pressing American citizens to adopt, is fear for our children’s safety. It’s hardly worth mentioning that this fear is greatly overblown; we mention it here, because we want to emphasize the degree to which Americans are being TAUGHT to be afraid, by the politicians and the media.

Nowadays, for fear of child predators, it is no longer considered safe to let young children go by themselves to and from school, to a friend’s house, play in parks or at the beach, go to shops and so on.

Birth to Death Fear! Whatever happened to the “land of the brave?” Stop the propaganda! We have less to fear than most other nations, and the steady “be afraid” drumbeat which we get from those the media and political echo chambers is eroding our freedoms and enslaving us and our children.

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