Category Archives: American Labor Movement

The Great American Hairshirt

Roosevelt is DEAD! His policies may live on, but we’re in the process of doing something about that as well

-Rush Hudson Limbaugh III

A while back at my local grocery store I noticed that there was a big sign with red letters taped to the front of the service desk that emphatically stated: WE NO LONGER ACCEPT ROLLED CHANGE. Sad to think that things are now so bad inflation wise that people are having to pay for food using scavenged rolls of pennies but some enterprising genius is going around down here in Florida putting in machines that convert such coinage to an easy to debit card – for a fee of course. Of course the official government line is that inflation is not a problem but most lies are of course comprised of half-truths mixed with outright lies and and one of the great lies is that core inflation doesn’t include either food or energy costs, it’s right up there with capitalism and democracy being interchangable.

People are having to dig deeper these days, much deeper now that oil prices are setting records, a gallon of milk is even more than a gallon of gas and the dollar is falling faster than the test objects for Newton’s law of gravity. The financial sector has been gamed to the point of collapse by the economic chicanery of the same sort of scoundrels who George Washington once referred to as a “squadron of corrupt paper dealers” and Frankin D. Roosevelt called out the same unscrupulous bandits as “economic royalists”. There are of course other more profane things we can call them the pack of greed-headed traitors who sold out America for chump change like unscrupulous slumlords bleeding a depressed property before dumping it to find more suckers to leech off of but it was America’s delusional worship of such rapacious, monstrous psychopaths that allowed the grand fucking to occur.

For every fucker there must be at least one fuckee and in a country in which the idolization of money and wealth for the sake of the worship of false gods as Donald Trump, J.R. Ewing Jack Welch there is no shortage of either. With the rise of Reagan and the rolling out of that shining gold plated calf Americans lined up to suck it’s poisonous cock, maxing out the credit cards, being sucked into debt by a sham system that is expressly set up for that purpose and by withdrawing into self-contained atmospheres of toxic greed and covetousness while ignoring those things that really and truly matter in order to pursue that cheap television electronic crack high of the pursuit of the mythical American dream. The greatest bait and switch in American history was that period after the Powell Memorandum laid out the game plan for the Reagan juggernaut that would destroy the unions, gut the regulatory agencies for fun and profit and produce a mutant generation that now believed that the path to success and prosperity came courtesy of the lottery and grotesquely insidious scams like “Who Wants to be A Millionaire” rather than the unspoken traditional pact of loyalty and hard work between employee and employer mapped out a path to prosperity and created a middle class that was the envy of the world and made dreams possible of a unique national destiny to change the world for the better. Then the festering nest of fascist vipers that has always existed in this country hijacked that dream and turned it into a nightmare.

The seeds have been sown and very soon we will be reaping the whirlwind for a quarter century of disastrously corrupt and fundamentally flawed neoliberal economic philosophy that rode in on the coattails of the great Ronald Reagan, or maybe it was the opposite but make no mistake, the average American will be the one left holding the proverbial flaming bag of dogshit while the looters laugh all the way to their offshore tax shelters and foreign banks. Americans have been indoctrinated to blame themselves for their lack of wealth and to view the poor as lazy lepers and the wealthy as superior human beings.

Howard W. Campbell Jr. from Kurt Vonnegut’s classic Slaughterhouse Five:


And just who are our national role models and heroes? Who is there that Americans should hold in the highest of esteem? Brittney and Lindsay and Tomkat and the Donald and Paris don’t do it. Our history has been scrubbed and sanitized by the economic royalists and the fascists to eliminate any mention of true heroes of the working class and of a real democratic society. The vast majority of those compliant little consumers that have for too long been churned out by a starved for funds and battered into submission school public school system that has been turned into a nationwide network of drone factories (one of the only things that we mass produce in America anymore) have never heard of those who sacrificed for those things that came to be taken to granted to the point where they are now being taken away.

Where is there any mention given of Eugene Debs or of Joe Hill or of Saul Alinsky or of Mother Jones? What about General Smedley D . Butler who called out the blood barters with his tract War Is A Racket and his exposure of the Business Plot where wealthy traitors schemed about a coup against FDR? What is taught about Huey Long? I mean other than the widely accepted narrative of a power mad, corrupt tyrant instead of the man who scared the living shit out of the elitist establishment with his “share our wealth”  program that ade the New Deal look like Reaganomics. Long stood up to entrenched interests and the moral rottenness of looter capitalism, he built roads, bridges, hospitals and schools as well as provided free textbooks and he even dared to take on the almighty Rockefellers and Standard Oil. Long railed against institutionalized corruption with his “every man a king” type of populism and he was making dangerous noises about running for president. The ending of the Huey Long story is all too predictable and familiar: he was of course assassinated.

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American journalist Kin Hubbard “It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.” It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand glued to a lollipop stick and flying fom the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere believe that many things are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and therefore those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleanic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.

And what of Hellen Keller? The little girl who overcame blindness and deafness and whose struggles with her handicaps are taught to American children as an example of how to overcome adversity as they are indoctrinated to the lies of a society that demands sacrifice and backbreaking work from the lesser classes as unquestioning slaves to the whims of the modern pharaohs on Wall Street. She has been sanitized, turned into a Horatio Alger version of the little engine that could while her later life as a social activist goes ignored. Hellen Keller would grow up to be a champion of women’s suffrage, she would join the Industrial Workers of the World and to help to found the American Civil Liberties Union. She was a socialist who dared to speak out against the power base and their exploitation and for that sin her life has been through revisionist history turned into a perverse fairy tale and yet another myth to bolster the system that would make slaves of us all. The little engine that could was very quickly uncoupled from the rest of the train once the narrative switched tracks from one of inspirational value to one of social justice.

And there are others, there are many others who risked all to end child labor, to fight for equality and the forty-hour work week and unemployment protection and workers rights, workplace safety and a right to basic human decency but they go largely unheard of. A good and easy to read book about the working class American labor movements that I recommend is Sharon Smith’s Subterranean Fire because let’s face it, it is a hell of a rock that has to be rolled up that hill and education is necessary in order for the necessary deprogramming to occur. Official history is always written by the victors rather than the vanquished and because most of lying is through omission the banishment of American progressives from our history is a calculated and cynical effort to distort and distract until the final goal of a massive redistribution of wealth upwards and offshore has been completed and the country has been bankrupted and beggared by the economic royalists. Then the looters will either retreat behind the walls of their gated communities, hire private security firms for protection from the unwashed masses or flee this goddamned husk of a once great economic power altogether, their loyalty has always been to green and gold rather than red, white and blue.

And they have run their game plan to perfection, here is a snippet of the transcript of a recent Democracy Now interview with economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Krugman, can you talk — I mean, in your book, The Conscience of a Liberal, you’re talking about the growth of the whole neoconservative movement over the years. Give us some historical context here and in parallel with the growth of the economic disparity between rich and poor.

PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah. A big discovery I made in doing the research for Conscience of a Liberal is that politics has actually led the economics. It’s not that we evolved into a new Gilded Age and we developed a right wing to support that. It’s that we developed a right wing that wanted a new Gilded Age, and they got it. Really, you know, a lot of this goes back — there was always a back — there were always people who hated FDR, who hated the New Deal, hated Social Security, but in the ’50s, they couldn’t get anywhere. Eisenhower once wrote a letter to his brother saying that this is a tiny minority and they are stupid.

But in the ’60s, they found their feet. Goldwater is actually less of a — I mean, he seized the Republican nomination, but much more important is first Reagan is the first central figure, because he found a way to exploit, found a rhetoric to exploit the white backlash against civil rights without actually being explicitly racist. So he talked about welfare queens driving Cadillacs. He talked about welfare cheats. He talked about — but he became governor of California largely by campaigning against the fair housing law. Nixon found the tactics. Nixon — you know, the dirty tricks, and it’s amazing how many, not just the sort of legacy, but actually the people of the Bush administration are coming from the Nixon years. I mean, Roger Ailes of Fox News was Nixon’s media adviser, right? They found these tactics. They found the moneyed interests wanted — supported the takeover of the Republican Party by people who really wanted to roll back as much of the New Deal as they could, but they were able to win elections by exploiting other issues, primarily race. And they were able to achieve about twenty-five years of political dominance in this country, largely by flipping the South and, to a certain extent, winning over, you know, the sort of Reagan Democrats in the North who were really upset about what amounts to the backlash against the Civil Rights Movement. It’s an extraordinary story.

And they were able to transform the way — look, my favorite example is just how much politics has mattered. We think of the decline of the union movement, which has all kinds of consequences, as being something — well, you know, the world economy changed and unions just didn’t have a place anymore. But that’s actually not true. Every place else in the advanced world, unions are still a powerful force. In the 1960s, Canada and the United States had the same rate of unionization. Canada still has about the same rate of unionization that it had in the 1960s. In the United States, the movement has been — you know, is a shadow of its former self, and that’s because of union busting, which was made possible by a permissive political environment, Ronal Reagan firing the air traffic controllers. The National Labor Relations Board turning hostile toward union organizers creates the possibility for massive union busting, and that, not the global economy, is why we are what we are.

A Time For Heroes

In an era of institutional decay wrought by a coordinated unrelenting assault on America by the looter ideology of the cult of Milton Friedman and the symbiotic relationship with the worst sort of domestic fascists it is imperative that heroes are either remembered or created to provide inspiration for a working class that has been herded into the chute by Judas goats before the kill shot is delivered. The very term heroes has been so cheapened and tarnished by constant invocation to serve the political needs of the corrupt, treasonous and morally devoid charlatans who run the scam and use it to describe everyone from victims of terrorism to the always expediently exploited troops so it also needs to be rescued and returned to it’s rightful place in the American lexicon. A hero is a person of morality, achievements and noble qualities, one who often sacrifices his/her own reputation or safety in order to pursue that which is right and those things that truly matter. It is time to reclaim history from the oligarchs, the looters and the blood barters and to recognize those from the past who took stands against power no matter how badly that the deck was stacked against them. They often suffered greatly but their cause prevailed and for a time, until the consolidated effort by a highly organized and deep pocketed fascist fifth column chipped away at progressive victories that built America into the envy of the world they made life better for subsequent generations who have now forgotten them. It is up to us, me and you dear reader to work together to return hope for positive change to this great country. It doesn’t take much, just a bit of courage, some knowledge on how things really work, a bit of a chip on your shoulder and a burning desire to set things right again.

But heroes aren’t limited to only those who achieved or paid the most, they include all who took a stand against injustice. They are largely anonymous but they numbered in the thousands if not millions. Their mettle is lacking in an America gone fascist and populated by fearful sheeple and hateful lemmings. While the economic diaspora of the looting spree and the ravages of globalization number in the millions there is no unity, no organization and until there is quite frankly there is little hope. It is up to us all to be heroes even if as David Bowie once sang “just for one day” and to educate, inform, prop up and instill some self-esteem in others. We must all work together in order to cast off the hairshirt and to take back that which has been stolen from us.

I am going to close with a poem by Marge Piercy called “Each Day One More” –

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can’t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.
But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

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A System Rigged and Rotten

In trying something different today I am going to share an email that I received from an acquaintance of mine on the injustices of the modern slavery system that the working poor, the victims of offshoring, globalization looter capitalism, state assisted monopoly, economic arbitrage or whatever else that capitalism gone cancerous can be called. I’m not a socialist or a communist or anything other than one who believes that what is inaccurately pimped off as free markets by the rapacious disciples of Milton Friedman is nothing but another of those big lies that puts up a false façade on criminal behavior. A bit more lipstick on the pigs who have been methodically strip mining this country, enslaving the population with crushing loads of debt and then changing the rules for bankruptcy to benefit the banks and creating a cruel feudal system designed to destroy the middle class while treating the United States as if it were nothing more than a property to be bled by slumlords.

While the plight of the growing legions of sub-citizens in the twenty seventh year of the the great undeclared class war is documented pretty well in books like Thom Hartmann’s Screwed, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickle and Dimed and David E. Shipler’s The Working Poor among other books the voice of Al is a damning indictment of the miserable gulag system that too many Americans are forced into. Subhuman, subsistence work for one of those great recently reclassified “manufacturing” jobs that are all the work that millions must settle for in the looter’s paradise of post-Reagan, Social Darwinist America:

I have now found out what it takes to be hired as a minimum wage ($6.67 per hour in Florida) delivery driver at a Pizza Hut take out, delivery, and carry-out restaurant here in St. Pete. This is one of the smaller restaurants, and it does not even have “dine-in” facilities.

It takes the typical paperwork of filling out a job application, plus the paperwork of confirming one is either a U.S. citizen or qualified to work in the U.S.

But it also takes filling out an 80-question questionnaire.

Additionally, once one is hired, one is shown approximately 2 hours straight of corporate promotional videos on the Pizza Hut restaurants.

If one’s hiring manager is preoccupied with a manager of his own having come from outside the immediate chain to oversee him and ask him questions that day, one will have no training that day.

If one’s hiring manager tells one he will telephone you the next day to confirm he will be in the next day to give one training, and he does not give you that phone call, he simply does not give you that phone call. Then if you show up, and he is not there, he simply is not there.

If he fobs off the training that second day on a subordinate with a thousand different tasks that subordinate is performing, and if you show and the subordinate on whom the training’s fobbed off is put into the situation wherein the thousand different tasks interfere with his being able to adequately train you, you don’t get training and it’s preferred you leave before the end of your shift, so the company will save money on the paltry $6.67 per hour they are paying you; if you leave before the end of your shift that day, you simply don’t get paid.

Additionally, you are to wear black pants. And you are to purchase them yourself. The organization does not purchase them. You do. I purchased two pair, and they cost me $40.00 for the two at a Target.

Additionally, you must wear a certain kind of shoe, and you must purchase them. The organization does not purchase them. You do. I was told they could cost me up to $40.00, and the money would come out of my paycheck.

This is on a paycheck of minimum wage of $6.67 per hour.

Part of your responsibility — and you are told this in the promotional videos — is to “hustle.” They tell you, “hustle” from the restaurant to your car, and “hustle” from your car to the home of the customer who is receiving the delivery.

They also tell you to be careful of crime, because delivery drivers get victimized by criminals. But they also tell you, no firearms are allowed in the restaurant. I had a concealed firearms carrying license, and I did not reveal that to my hiring manager. While I was fully within my legal rights to carry my concealed firearm, since I had a Florida concealed firearms carrying license, the restaurant tells employees in a restaurant that handles cash, and employees who handle cash when they deliver to customers, no firearms. This is sort of like telling a seal to swim glibly and gayly and utterly without a care within an ocean full of great white sharks.

The interesting thing was, when I came for my first day on the job, I was sent to the back of the Pizza Hut restaurant. The hiring manager was there for that day, and he set me up in front of the video player, and had the 5 videos I was to sit and watch for the next several hours in front of me. He informed me that there was originally supposed to have been an orientation of 5 people, not 1 person, but I was the only one who, in his words, “worked out.”

The day previous to that day, I had met him at another restaurant where he was working to answer to his telephone call and he had said on that earlier occasion that I’d so far been the only one who had worked out.

Additionally, they give you a motor vehicle check, if you’re to be a delivery driver. And before hiring you, they check into your driving background. They did that with me, and again, apparently, I was the only one who checked out okay.

Their turnover rate is evidently so high that this sort of thing is conventional and typical with them.

After being there 2 days with no training, spending 40 bucks on two pairs of pants out of my own money, realizing I’d have to spend 40 more on shoes, realizing my car insurance was entirely my responsibility and if any accident I had happened, I could not only lose my job, but end up without car insurance, having had the hiring manager’s time primarily preoccupied the first day on the job by his manager from the outside coming in to check up on him, and then having had the hiring manager promise to call me the second day and confirm and show up the second day to train me, and then not do that, and showing up myself the second day and having the training responsibilities fobbed off by the hiring manager, who managed 82 stores total (this being only one of his stores), on some hapless and luckless subordinate, and being asked an 80-question questionnaire as a precondition to being employed at the sum of money of $6.67 per hour for a job which was apparently not even going to be full-time, I decided this would not work out.

I went to the restaurant the third day, turned in my new “uniform” in the shape of my shirt given me the previous day and my cap given me the previous day, and said, “I’m outta here, I quit.”

The hiring manager was there and he ran after me to stop me, and I yelled back, “You want reliability from your employees, but you’re supposed to be reliable yourself and you weren’t reliable and didn’t show up to train me. I quit.”

I said that loudly as I got into my car and drove away.

Hence ended my 2 shifts, one 4 hours, and one 3.5 hours, with Pizza Hut.

I am 60 years old, and, frankly, I simply could not take it

My point is, I have had my share of tough jobs. But this 2 days at Pizza Hut and the literally evil and horrendous way in which workers were demeaned into being considered nothing but cogs in the machinery of production of profits for the looters, thievers, pillagers, exploiters, and swine at the top of the establishment, and their well-paid agents in the management in the middle, was simply too much for me at 60 to take.

So I simply quit. I could not take it. And this may be my last experiment in trying to get work, because my money’s running out, and if I cannot find work soon, I will be homeless. I will not be homeless, and have already made “alternative plans” to the possibility of homelessness, which some already know of. After watching the City of St. Petersburg City Council and Mayor pass ordinances effectively criminalizing homelessness here in the City of St. Petersburg, I have decided, essentially, in league with the anti-fascists who fought against Spanish fascism, “It is better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees.” I agree with that slogan. I will not allow myself to be homeless, and if I must die instead of that, I will die. That is my view of the issue. I think the anti-fascists in Spain in the 1930s who said, “It is better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees” were right. And that is how I view the issue. And no labor-hating, profit-extracting, micromanaging, pathologically control fanatically incline, sociopathic and psychopathic capitalist owner or boss or ruling class will ever make me think differently. Nor will their swinish, slimy, sleazy bipartisan capitalistic political legislative bodies, city councils, senates, congresses, Demopublican parties and Republicrat parties, scumbag mayors, slimy hypocritical owning corrupt newspapers and media, who first “out” a transgender guy in Largo destroying his life, and then editorialize in support of keeping him (in a scenario out of the movie, Absence of Malice), racist and trigger happy killer cops, dissuade me in my decision that if it’s a choice of homelessness or death, I will take death.

The chain of restaurants of which this Pizza Hut were a part is called, Tri-Con Industries*.

They own Kentucky Fried Chicken, A&W (which used to be A&W Root Beer), Taco Bell, and other such fast food industries.

And they are entirely staffed by the lowest of low-wage workers, many of whom are immigrant workers from other countries who speak just a smattering of English, or none at all, and are hired primarily to do the work in the kitchen of making the pizza pies and the other items.

The corporate promotional videos broadcast how sanitation and hygiene in food preparation is vital and central to the making of their foods.

But while I was there, the fact the staffing was short and the guy who actually was running the restaurant who had had the job of trying to train me fobbed off on him by his boss, the hiring manager, was torn by a thousand different tasks, insured that on any number of occasions, I witnessed numerous violations by diverse very hard-pressed people trying as hard as they could, but failing, to do everything, including meeting the hygiene and sanitation requirements.

This was simply due to the fact that the top echelons of the company operate on the basis of extracting enormous profits out of pushing to the nth degree the vast retinue of hired low-wage staffers at the bottom.

According to the corporate promotional videos, Tri-Con Industries* services millions of customers around the world.

The very objective existence of Tri-Con Industries* and the very nature of its operation and how it works is an argument for militant, international, cross-national-boundaries, working class organization, labor organization, in all countries where this enormous company has any local restaurants, to unite the entire working class of people who really are the basis of the entire enormous chain against the greedy, parasitic, corrupt, hypocritical, vicious capitalist exploiters at the top, and against the managers in between who act as the lackeys and flunkeys and vicious toadies and agents of the capitalist exploiting and owning class of garbage at the top of this organization. Tri-Con Industries* must be labor organized worldwide to gain huge wage increases across the board for all workers employed by it, huge increases in training and education of its work force, the smashing of the “hustle” mentality and modus operandi on the part of the filthy, thieving, profit-extracting, exploiting capitalist bosses of Tri-Con Industries*, and the establishment of human working conditions there that enable workers to concentrate carefully on their jobs and actually care about their jobs.

I noticed the enormous level of gut hatred for the hiring manager — the guy who managed 82 restaurants — among all the staff with whom I worked the second day at this one restaurant. The contempt and hatred and disdain for the manager of the 82 restaurants among the workers with whom I worked on the second day was evident everywhere among everyone. Everyone on some level had some sense that the entire operation was one big huge lie, one hypocrisy, designed to put enormous amounts of money in the pockets of the big owners and the managers, and thieve and pillage from the masses of people at the bottom of the heap who really kept the entire operation running.

So next time you check out a fast food restaurant — Pizza Hut, or KFC, or some similar outfit — remember what I’ve here written. Next time you “order” a delivery at your apartment or home, remember what I wrote here about what these people go through. Next time you think about the sanitary conditions in which food you eat is prepared, remember what I wrote about how hard-pressed the people in restaurants like Pizza Hut and similar restaurants are.

I’m telling you what I observed in only 2 days there, and it was just in the space of one 4-hour shift and in the space of another 3.5 hour shift.

Remember what I’ve told you.

And try not to lose your appetite.

*Tricon changed it’s name to Yum! several years ago but apparently has not replaced their videos in the local restaurant that Al refers to in his letter.