“Classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week … ”
The class is filled with an excitement that reminds me of waiting for snow day announcements when I was a kid in Minnesota.
” … will be canceled because of the strike.”
I know the professor is just hoping that we won’t cheer. Of course, the tension has to be released somehow, and a few whoops and hollers sound off.
But it’s really not all fun and canceled classes. Members of the Coalition of University Employees (C.U.E.) are striking to defend their right to earn living wages. They are also protesting the unfair bargaining tactics and bad faith that they say the University of California is bringing to the table.
These are people’s livelihoods and basic rights at stake. Anyone who has a job that supports and feeds them understands the power that the bosses have with the paycheck. Without unions representing the workers, that power would be absolute. But when workers unite, they can protest mistreatment and poor wages with a collective power that the managers and owners have to listen to – as long as the union doesn’t fall prey to greed and infighting.
This right to rise up against those who hold the purse strings is of immense importance, and like many other items in our Constitution, is not to be taken for granted these days.
There’s another battle between employer and employee going on right now, except that the government, in all its wisdom, has joined the field of this one. The dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) in ports all up and down the West Coast has been temporarily ended.
Mr. Bush has brought to the table a piece of rarely used legislation that former president Harry Truman, over whose veto it passed, called a “slave-labor bill.” The Taft-Hartley Act gives the executive branch the power to get an 80-day injunction to end or prevent a strike that “imperils the national health or safety.”
Incidentally, it also required union leaders to affirm that they were not supporters of the Communist Party.
It might have been a good idea to reopen the ports, even if by force. Analysts estimated that the nation was suffering $1-2 billion a day in economic damages because of all the cargo sitting on the docks. The Justice Dept. also predicted that an extended shutdown could cost 140,000 American jobs by the end of the year.
The ports were closed earlier this week, but the ILWU never went on strike. It was locked out by the PMA. Actually, the ILWU had signed an unconditional agreement to return to work for 30 days.
The 30-day agreement was a plea from the administration for work to continue in order to spare the economy. The PMA reportedly said that it would sign if the ILWU did. Then, when the ILWU signed it, the PMA refused. The PMA sparked an economic catastrophe that it allowed to run loose in order to force government intervention so that it might have a stronger hand, and Bush played right into it. He’s not exactly what you’d call “labor-friendly.”
Look at his big corporation, the government. He and a bunch of his Republican senator buddies, the management, are doing their best to make sure that the 170,000 workers that will make up the proposed Homeland Security Dept. have no civil service rights or rights to union representation. If people had rights, according to Bush, we wouldn’t be able to effectively fight a war.
We’re all in this together. We may eventually have to defend our lives and our rights too, and we may have to start sooner than we think. Support C.U.E. or don’t, but understand that the battle they’re fighting could be yours someday.
Cory Anthony is the Daily Nexus assistant Opinion editor, and is dreaming of a union to represent underpaid student press writers.