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Sunday, August 31, 2014 - Page updated at 06:30 p.m.
Right wing launches misguided protest against Labor Day
By Danny Westneat
Seattle Times staff columnist
Just when it seemed the right wing couldn’t get any more divorced from reality around here, a local conservative group has launched a protest against what it sees as a pernicious cultural touchstone.
Yes, bittersweet old Labor Day — the first Monday in September, the holiday that’s been around for generations and is known to most nonideologically blinkered Americans as an end-of-summer free day honoring all the hard work you put in the rest of the year.
But to the Freedom Foundation, a business-backed Olympia think tank, the day is evidence of the power of unions, which to members equals the decline of America. Rather than stoop to taking a union-backed day off, they plan to fight the power by ... working all day Monday instead!
“I can’t think of a problem in society that can’t be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, so it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf,” said Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe, in announcing the “work-in.”
That’ll show those unions who control everything around here. Let’s all go into the offices and the factories and work like dogs instead of barbecuing or watching parades! Who’s with me?
Of course, if McCabe followed this principle to its logical end, he’d have to work every Saturday, too. Year round.
But as a protest, this seems unlikely to catch on (to say the least). About the last thing Americans need to do is work more. In fact if we all agreed to work less, even just 10 percent less like the Germans do, we’d open up a lot of jobs for the unemployed, and probably be happier, too.
But what jumped out at me is McCabe’s quote that he “can’t think of a problem in society that can’t be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor.” This is a fascinating glimpse into the conservative id, as well as the polarized state of the nation.
McCabe runs a $3 million-per-year organization, so he’s not just some crazy dude ranting on the corner. And versions of his views are not uncommon among conservatives or in the corridors of business (remember the “makers” and the “takers?”).
What’s odd about it, though, is that only 12 percent of American workers even belong to unions anymore. Yet we — I say “we” because I’m in that 12 percent — somehow retain an almost supernatural mind-meld authority over the oppressed and hapless other 88 percent.
Where does this grievance come from? I mean whatever unions have done wrong — and like any organization, they’ve screwed up plenty — today the defining feature of organized labor is impotence. Not influence, evil or otherwise. For Exhibit A, look at Boeing, where corporate HQ — backed by the state’s political establishment — has got the unions running for their lives.
That’s happening at a company where the management has demonstrably messed up more than the workers.
The 787 is now being called “a case study in how not to build an airplane.” It was the workers who warned that the program wasn’t going to fly, and management who ignored them. Yet it was management who were handsomely rewarded, while the workers — when they weren’t saving the Dreamliner debacle from imploding — who had their retirements slashed.
But let’s all protest against this and stagnant wages and outsourced jobs and all the other realities of work in America by ... working on Labor Day!
No, thanks, not for me. In fact, in honor of Labor Day, the workers of America, and the unions from the Wobblies to the Fighting Machinists on forward, and in protest of McCabe’s “work-in” as well as misguided management everywhere, I’m not only taking Monday off, I’m boycotting Tuesday, too!
Now I just hope like most days, my bosses don’t bother reading to the end of this column.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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