by Lee Adler, Wall Street Examiner
Ronald Reagan’s firing of PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, in 1981, was the first shot in the plutocrats war against the middle class. It was Reagan’s signal to his plutocrat buddies that it was now open season on unions.
Plutocrats obviously have no desire to pay anyone high wages or to have anyone other than themselves making decisions about the working conditions that they would impose on their employees. The cheaper labor is, and the more control they have over the rules their workers must follow, fair or not, the better it is for them. Consequently, they have always wanted nothing more than to destroy organized labor. Ronald Reagan gave them the go- ahead to do that when he fired all of the air traffic controllers for striking for better working conditions.
Not that unions had done anything to distinguish themselves in the mid to late twentieth century. Many, if not most of them had become thug operations, but the fact was that the American middle class had done pretty well as the union movement grew and more workers had that representation to level the playing field in the labor market against the corporatist oligopolies.
Then along came the signal that Reagan sent his buddies. The corrupt and sometimes violent unions were ripe for the taking. They had lost the support of many Americans, and the corporatists took advantage of this to fire up its propaganda machine to convince a substantial percentage of the American people that organized labor was the enemy. It is a propaganda campaign that continues to work today. Its beginning was nicely timed with the growing push for globalization and “free trade” that also benefitted the plutos at the expense of the vast majority of American workers and their families. With cheap labor available elsewhere in the world, it was easy to shut down US plants, first by moving jobs to non-unionized Southern states in the US, and and then to virtual slave labor camps in China, Mexico, Central America, and Bengladesh.
Ross Perot called it “a giant sucking sound.” Ridiculed and reviled by the mainstream political establishment, He was a visionary. It is in the nature of the plutocratic establishment to want to destroy visionaries, even when the visionary is one of its own. But I digress.
Over the course of this process of union destruction and globalization, in the last 34 years US workers got less and less of a share of the economic pie until ultimately in the last 15-20 years the standard of living of US workers has actually declined.
Senator Bernie Sanders shows what happened over this era, beginning with Reagan firing the first shot in the plutocrats’ war against organized labor and the middle class. He blames Reagan and trickle down economics, which is only part of the story.