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Too Old to Work, Too Young to Die
by Andrew Barbano
Feb 20, 2011 | 767 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Who will take care of you, how’ll you get by,

When you’re too old to work and too young to die?

— Joe Glazer

Welcome to the revolution. Looks like the WikiLeaks-fueled fire that figuratively and literally started in Tunisia is spreading from the near- and middle-east to Main Street, USA.

It’s about goddam time!

The hellfires of Wisconsin will reach Carson City and Gomorrah South at high noon on President’s Day. Demonstrators will gather in front of the state legislative building in the capital and the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas.

Let it lead to a national strike. The union busters can’t fire every teacher, every cop, firefighter, security guard, cook and dishwasher.

Thanks to last year’s elections, I had no one to root for in the Super Bowl. My impossible choice was between one team led by Big Mac Rapistburger and another from the state that just fired the senator who tried to clean up politics.

The governor of Wisconsin’s threat to call out the National Guard echoes the century-old lie from mining interests that convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to send federal troops to Goldfield in order to bust a union organizing campaign.

Wisconsin, O Wiscon-sin. Could you be the same place that birthed legendary progressive U.S. Sen. Robert La Follette, R-Wisc.? Yep. The place where doofus cheeseheads later elected the paranoid Sen. Joe McCarthy over La Follette Jr. Alas and alack, yes.

Wisconsin’s new GOP governor has taken a play out of the Bush-Cheney playbook: Don’t solve problems, use them to advance your corporate agenda.

“The number of American workers in unions declined sharply last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, with the percentage slipping to 11.9 percent, the lowest rate in more than 70 years,” the Jan. 21 New York Times reported.

“In 2009, for the first time in American history, government employees accounted for more than half the nation’s union membership, but the percentage of government workers in unions fell to 36.2 percent last year, down from 37.4 percent the previous year,” the Times noted.

A major reason for the reversed positions lies in the fact that governments, unlike corporations, rarely hire $500 per hour union busters to illegally fire organizers and conduct scorched earth campaigns to destroy worker organizations.

A contributing factor was 9/11. Although they were asleep at the switch, Bush and Cheney used the attack to deunionize large parts of the federal work force, making it illegal for employees to bargain collectively.

It is instructive that the only Saddam Hussein law kept by Bush-Cheney’s Iraq Regent Paul Bremer was Saddam’s ban on labor unions.

Dumb as ferns as usual, the Democrats failed to adequately support employment during our Wall Street-caused depression — depredations facilitated by Democrat- and Republican-backed Reaganaut deregulation. The foxes ate the chickens and left the rest of us with Top Ramen.

Germany avoided a similar jobs meltdown because unpopular Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government did everything it could to maintain employment. The Obama stimulus package was about half a trillion too small, making it vulnerable to Republican election year rants that it was a failure. It contained a lot of tax cuts rather than job creation.

The bogus idea that tax breaks stimulate the economy is considered religious dogma by GOP moonhowlers. Not even recent statements by former Reagan budget director David Stockman can shake their faith in having your cake and eating it, too.

“An Arizona State University business school study, published in Nov. 2009, examined the past three decades of fiscal policy” in the sunshine state where a suntan can get you jailed and deported.

“Although tax cuts ‘have lowered government revenues,’ they ‘have not had any perceptible effect on the state’s economic growth,’ ” the study concluded. (Harper’s Magazine, July 2010)

Nevada state workers are not unionized. They have no collective bargaining rights and their salaries show it, but they are targeted nonetheless.

The brushfire in Wisconsin is simply the vanguard of nationwide Republican efforts to destroy a major part of the Democratic Party’s base.

“How will labor come back? In a strike. That’s not romanticism, that’s a fact. It’ll start with one plant. One plant. And they strike. And there’ll be guys across the street at a second plant, and they see it, and they think ‘Hmm, maybe we can do that.’ And they win. Then somebody in Idaho does it, the same thing, independently. And then all of a sudden you’re seeing some John L. Lewis again, a leader, but he gets thrown up, he’s just riding the thing ... That’s not romanticism, that’s a fact.”

Chicago steelworker Ed Sadlowski made that wishful prediction during the darkest days of Reaganomics and Bushwhacking two decades ago. Today, he looks successfully psychic.

People from Arab countries have given their lives demonstrating for a fair share of the pie. It’s about time Americans showed some courage.

I’ll see you on the picket lines.

High noon, part deux

At 12:30 p.m. Monday on KRNV TV-4, Washoe DA Dick Gammick and I participate on Sam Shad’s Nevada Newsmakers pundit panel. Go to the expanded web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com for statewide radio-TV rerun times.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 42-year Nevadan, chair of the Nevada César Chávez Committee, member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail barbano@frontpage.reno.nv.us. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988.
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