Voices from Russia

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Labour’s Last Stand

00 inflatable rat moneybags


Regular readers of Pravda.Ru will undoubtedly recall that during the past two years, I’ve written several articles condemning the US Supreme Court‘s egregious Citizens United decision, underscoring the destructive impact this decision will have on America… an impact that, as this article illustrates, is already being felt.

For those unfamiliar with Citizens United, on 21 January 2010, five of the most amoral, politicised, and ethically-corrupt “justices” in the history of the Supreme Court… Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy… ignored over one hundred years of legal precedent by decreeing that corporations have the same right to “freedom of speech” as flesh-and-blood human beings. In other words, corporations can now give unlimited financial support to political causes, candidates, and/or campaigns that promote their interests, or more correctly interest, because they have only one… profit. Supporters of this decision swiftly boasted that Citizens United not only expanded the free speech provisions of the Bill of Rights, it also “balanced the scales” by extending identical free speech rights to labour unions. However, both of these boasts are unmitigated lies.

The reality is that any expansion of the free speech rights of corporations diminishes the free speech rights of individuals. Although speech is most effective when read, heard, and/or seen by a significant portion of the population, nothing in the US Constitution requires the government to provide venues to persons wishing to exercise this right. This, in turn, either forces people into silence or requires them to disseminate their messages through the corporate-controlled media. Nevertheless, unlike the government, these media are not obligated to honour the Bill of Rights, and therefore can censor or dilute messages at will. Speakers and writers wishing to avoid such censorship or dilution can often only do so by buying expensive airtime or print space. Thanks to the unbridled corporate contributions allowed by Citizens United, the 2012 elections were the “most expensive on record”, with campaign spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearing six billion dollars (185.4 billion Roubles. 4.6 billion Euros. 3.7 billion UK Pounds). Moreover, all of this spending occurred in a nation where millions are unemployed or underemployed, where the middle-class is vanishing into the ranks of the poor, and where corporations are making record profits.

Left unchecked, corporate expenditures in future elections will only increase, displacing, or overwhelming the messages of labour unions and other lesser-funded advocacy groups. In addition, political candidates who don’t promote corporate interests will increasingly find themselves waging “David vs Goliath” political battles, except that Goliath will possess all the slings and arrows. Furthermore, any illusions that the Citizens United decision was intended to be “balanced” were rapidly dispelled by both the Supreme Court and the increasing number of states (the most recent being Michigan) that have passed, or are expressing their intention to pass, anti-labour “right-to-work” legislation. “Right-to-work” laws require labour unions to represent employees in union shops even when they refuse to pay union dues. It isn’t difficult to see how depleting the financial resources of labour unions through such laws would severely diminish their ability to disseminate effective political messages through the corporate-controlled media.

Initially it appeared that Citizens United might have provided the legal ammunition to abolish existing “right-to-work” laws and prohibit the passage of new ones. Legal precedent once dictated that the government could not enact legislation that acts as a “prior restraint” or has a “chilling effect” on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech. This has historically been interpreted to mean the federal and state governments can’t, through the passage of laws, promote, or favour one political message over another. Impeding the ability of labour unions to raise and spend money on political causes and/or campaigns, when such restrictions are absent when it comes to corporate spending, clearly exhibits such favouritism. Unfortunately, we are talking about an American “justice” system that habitually favours property rights over human rights and the interests of the rich and powerful over the poor and oppressed, as well as a Supreme Court whose “conservative” majority incessantly disregards legal precedent to promote its own political agendas. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when this court, in decisions subsequent to Citizens United, actually made it even more difficult for labour unions to raise and spend money on political causes and campaigns. As Labour Law professor Susan Carle explained, these decisions are “an interesting contrast to [the court’s] other opinions in the line of Citizens United [that] is making it much easier for corporations to spend money for political purposes without much accountability to their shareholders at all. It’s a very interesting unlevelling of the playing field quite deliberately”.

So, what do workers have in America? Wal-Mart gloats over the fact that union-organised “Black Friday” protests designed to draw attention to its labour practises were largely unsuccessful, a plethora of jobs that fail to pay a living wage or provide benefits, and a proliferation of “at-will” employees who can legally lose their jobs “for any reason, good or bad, or for no reason at all”. The corporate corruption and usurpation of the political process sanctioned by Citizens United has caused “right-to-work” laws to spread like a cancer throughout the USA, even when the reprobates who advocate these laws so conspicuously lie about their motives for doing so. One such lie alleges that “right-to-work” laws make a state more economically attractive to businesses. However, if the path America is now on remains unchecked, soon every state in the union will have “right-to-work” laws. Since this will mean there is no economic advantage to operating in a “right-to-work” state, greedy corporations will once again migrate to states that permit the greatest exploitation and abuses of their workers, igniting a new “competition” that’ll diminish the rights of labour even further.

Another lie, currently being promulgated in Michigan, is that “right-to-work” laws are “pro-worker”. However, American history has demonstrated, time and again, that most businesses are repelled by laws that favour workers like vampires are repelled by crucifixes. If concern about anything but profit truly influenced business decisions, America wouldn’t be seeing the exodus of its companies to countries where environmental laws are lax, where child labour thrives, where wages are low, where governments are corrupt, and where laws protecting workers are nonexistent. The unvarnished truth is the only goal behind “right-to-work” laws is to destroy the free speech rights of labour unions, which, in essence, destroys the free speech rights of anyone financially incapable of accessing the corporate-controlled media. Wal-Mart’s vice-president of communications is already pontificating about how the labour unions behind the “Black Friday” protests don’t speak for Wal-Mart’s “more than 1.3 million workers.” (South Bend Tribune, 24 November 2012). The problem is that nobody speaks for these workers. Moreover, given the corrupting influence of Citizens United, nobody ever will.

Make no mistake about it… Citizens United and “right-to-work” laws are destined to sink America even deeper into the cesspool of plutocracy where the only voice effectively resounding in the political arena is the voice of corporate interests. Since the venal Republican Party would be the primary beneficiary of this plutocracy, it isn’t surprising that Republican politicians are the most ardent proponents of “right-to-work” laws. Thus, it isn’t only the future of labour unions, but also the future of democracy that’s at stake. Yet, even though numerous pundits emphasised how labour unions played an influential role in the re-election of Barack Obama, it’s doubtful, given his conduct during his first term, that he’ll get this message. As I stated in my recent Pravda.Ru article To Vote or to Waste Vote, even though I once optimistically supported Obama, today, I consider him ”one of the biggest frauds and criminals in the history of the USA”. Although he reached out to progressive interests in order to get elected in 2008, he did almost nothing to promote those interests, and, in fact, often acted in direct opposition to them.

According to some political analysts, I’m not alone in this assessment. As the 2012 election neared, even many African-American and Hispanic voters were disillusioned with Obama. However, what eventually drove them to the polls were the efforts of many Republican legislators and governors to create laws covertly designed to disenfranchise minority voters, which made Obama and the Democratic Party the lesser of two evils. Yet, even as some Republicans are arguing that racial inclusiveness is crucial to the Party’s future success, far too many others have decided that if they can’t diminish the right to vote, they can at least control the message being sent to the voters. So, if Obama does nothing but pay lip service to progressive interests during his second term, it’d most likely be the last stand for labour and the Bill of Rights as America inexorably continues down its pathway of becoming a third-world economy where the government is controlled by the rich; the middle class is extinct; the working poor suffer ruthless exploitation and live in perpetual fear of losing their jobs; and the impoverished have absolutely no opportunities to better their lives.

Therefore, at least one (and preferably all three) of the following must be accomplished before it is too late:

  • A federal statute must be enacted that nullifies “right-to-work” laws in every state where they now exist and bans the passage of new ones
  • A federal law or constitutional amendment must invalidate the egregious Citizens United decision, or, at the very least, minimise the political corruption it engenders
  • The draconian doctrine of “at-will” employment must be abolished so workers can speak out without fear of retaliation about the abuses they witness or suffer.

A true democracy, and a just society, should demand nothing less.

12 December 2012

David Hoffman



Note to Orthodox People:

This is why I oppose Paffhausen, Lyonyo, Potapov, Mattingly, Reardon, Dreher, and Whiteford so bitterly. They’re shills for the Corporate Moloch… to speak honestly, Lebedeff and Bobby aren’t as bad. Mind you, the last two-named are corrupt and one should never turn ones back on them, but they’re not cheerleaders for the Hard Right. They’re merely mendacious ecclesial apparatchiki (Lebedeff is a competent canonist and historian, and Bobby is a whiz at church politics… do give the devils their due). Whiteford isn’t as bad as the others I named… he’s just deluded and loud.

The others are true believers in the Hard Right vision, and all decent people should oppose them. Engaging them in dialogue is fruitless (everyone saw how Potapov used the official ROCOR website to attack a Rodzianko clansman)… the only thing that one can do is to oppose them. They worship the Almighty Dollar… not Almighty God. They’d smash their boot into the face of an undocumented Mexican labourer and giggle away, if it put money in their pockets. That’s why people voted for Obama… he’s not the greatest, but he isn’t a Republican. Yes… there’s a difference between the two main parties, and I prefer the one that gives ordinary working folk a little more wiggle-room than the other one does. If you vote for contemporary Republicans, you vote for objective evil… the only thing that exists for them is MONEY.

I voted for kinda-bad to avoid stark evil. That’s the best that one can do in this fallen world. Let anyone criticise that if they dare… perfection isn’t attainable here. As for the people I named at the head of this note… I, and many others, oppose them.

I’ll see you at the barricades…


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