Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights written in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, to be pursued as goals for free citizens living in a democratic society. Freedom of speech, press, persons, and other provisions in the U.S. Constitution grant us the right to work for and build institutions, which can best achieve these goals.
For millions of our working citizens, trade unions, built at great sacrifice over many years by previous generations, have proven to be one of the institutions best suited for this. Unions have helped America's working population achieve a standard of living, which has been, in past years, a beacon of progress for the world's working people.
Most of our labor leaders, together with many officials and other sections of our population, believed the business-labor working relationship built up during President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal reforms, based on mutual trust, would be permanent. However, Wall Street financiers, bankers, and U.S multi-national corporations thought otherwise, and began unraveling that relationship with President Ronald Reagan busting the air controllers strike, firing union members and hiring non-union replacements.
A virtual war against workers' unions, wages, and benefits, has been escalating from that first blow, leading up to the present attempts to outlaw collective bargaining by public worker unions. The central function of trade unions is to bring together all workers on a job-site, in an industry, trade, or profession, into one bargaining unit, so they have the strength to speak and bargain with management with one voice. Destroying collective bargaining eliminates the core reason for a union's existence.
The only recourse for workers so affected will be to strike for their demands, which could lead us back to the often-violent confrontations between capital and labor in pre-New Deal days. The laws being passed stipulate fines and jail time for striking.
How far is this going to go? It's very telling that one of the first measures used against unions in Germany by the Nazi regime was outlawing collective bargaining.
However, the United States is very different from Germany, and actions by concerned citizens show the American public is not buying the "fix the budget" propaganda. People are learning that the Ohio budget "can be fixed" by undoing the 2005 21 percent tax cut for the super-rich and corporations, and other similar measures. Ohio is one of only six states with no corporate profit tax. Annually, about $2.1 billion has been lost to our state treasury by this one misplaced tax measure.
Putting our millions of unemployed workers back to work at jobs with good wages and benefits, paying taxes, is the only way to fully solve the state budget problems. This can be done with the right policies and programs, which need to be addressed by Ohio's administration and legislature.
(Correction: "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was written in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, not in the U.S. Constitution. The correction has been made to this article, and we apologize for the error.)
Photo: Thousands of labor and community activists rallied in Chicago, April 9, during the nationwide "We Are One" actions. Teresa Albano/PW.