Posted by: kokoro | 15th Jan, 2009

Lipsitz, Rainbow at Midnight; Yates, Why Unions Matter

The Lipsitz reading certainly made me consider many things that I had not before. I never really thought about the impact America’s deindustrialization and increasing overseas production would have on labor and workers. Usually, my thoughts are on how odd it is to see things that are representative of American culture being made in other countries. For instance, in one of the antiques shops downtown, I saw some replica Civil War hats with tags that said, take a guess, “made in China.”

Also, I’ve studied several aspects of post-WWII America, like the economic boom and consumerism, military demobilization, and social and racial tensions, but the closest I’ve come to considering the impact of labor on our current economic, political, and cultural life is studying the result of WWII veterans returning to the workforce.

In the Yates reading, I was reminded of an experience of my own when he discussed the actions of his wife and other daycare workers. She spoke up against her employer and that inspired her co-workers to do so as well, and that led to them making a change in their working environment. I also spoke up against my supervisor about something I perceived to be unfair. However, the other workers didn’t join me, and as a result nothing changed.

I would almost say that Yates is being paranoid in his ideas about corporations, all levels of government (local, state, and federal), and the media being in cahoots against unions… but from what I know about union history, he’s pretty much right on. While the federal government finally offered a hand on behalf of unions during FDR’s presidency, the process of organizing under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) sounds like a nightmare. And apparently corporations are still allowed to basically harass and legally lie to people to convince them not to join a union.

Most of Yates ideas about unions struck me as very Marxist, which certainly isn’t surprising, but I think that it does draw light to some of the reasons why corporations, the government, and the media are resistant to unions.

Funnily enough, when I was originally writing this there was a commercial on in which Erin Brockovich talked about the exploitation of working people by large corporations.

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