It’s nice to have friends and allies and supporters. But for some it’s even nicer, if more costly, to have cronies. Cronies, not buddies, who have the political power to bestow favors on those who can fill their campaign war chests, fund their PACS and hire their spouses and family members.
What kind of favors can these cronies give? First and foremost: tax cuts that benefit the richest Americans and corporations; deregulation of safety and health, environmental and workplace standards; attacks on public education to gain more tax cuts and promote private education; and reducing financial safeguards to prevent another Great Recession or worse.
The cronies also reward their patrons with endless assaults on workers’ rights and the unions that represent them. Some cronies support rolling back such social policies as protective child labor laws. And, of course, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and other programs that benefit the majority of Americans. Obliterating or limiting these programs would enable the richest, the so-called 1%, to become even richer. Cronies aim to please their donors.
But working people don’t have cronies. We do have each other and our unions, if we are lucky enough to belong to one.
As the 2020 elections loom larger and larger, we have a chance to confront cronyism and find political leaders unattached to the oligarchs. We should evaluate all candidates closely before we adorn them with a Union Label. ■
Activist union teachers around the country continue to stack up victories and anti-union legislators continue to oppose workers’ union rights, as in Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) introduction of a national right-to-work bill.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Lest we forget: the Trump administration issued executive orders attacking government employee unions, interfering with their ability to perform their responsibilities to union members. The unions went to court to reverse the actions limiting the basic rights of federal employees.
The much-dreaded Janus decision was rendered in favor of its anti-union plaintiffs. And then, guess what. Union membership did not decrease, it increased. Non-member government workers chose to join the union when they realized that having a strong defender in the workplace outweighed not paying union dues.
Graduate students at various universities (including Brandeis and Harvard) are intent on joining the more than 30 other graduate student unions. Hotel workers on the West Coast are fighting for their rights.
Workers at New Era Cap Company’s Derby, Pa., factory, makers of iconic Major Leagues Baseball players’ caps, are supported by MLB players in their opposition to sending their jobs to a non-union plant.
Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals has this to say about his support of the New Era workers: “union membership is not the sole guarantor of job security and a living wage, but nonunion factory workers do not enjoy the same protections as union workers. They’re subject to exploitation, underpayment and lower standards of workplace safety — which is also often the case for manufacturing workers outside the United States.” The Major Leagues Baseball Players Association has called for keeping New Era’s union plant open.
The more things change, the more solidarity matters. ■