Meet Michael J. Lotito of the firm Jackson Lewis LLP. He was among the many individuals in expensive suits who worked very hard to bring on the current global economic disaster. Michael J. Lotito did not peddle subprime mortgages in hardscrabble neighborhoods. He didn’t sit in a bank and lie to people about the advantages of interest-only home loans. He didn’t hawk bundled exotic securities in the global marketplace. His firm, Jackson Lewis LLP, isn’t even located on Wall Street. Their New York office is on Staten Island. It’s not a mortgage lender, an investment bank, or a stock brokerage house.
Michael J. Lotito’s contribution to our nation’s economic woes was of a different sort all together. Michael J. Lotito is a union buster and his law firm of Jackson Lewis LLP is one of the best known in the business. Lotito advises companies on how to lie to employees about unions, how to frighten employees so they don’t join unions, how to stonewall negotiations with unions, how to fire union organizers without legal repercussions and lots of other similar advice. It was "helpful" advice such as this that has helped drive union membership to an all-time low in the good ole USA.
Michael Lotito and his colleagues are part of an old and ugly tradition. Lotito fights unions with PR and PowerPoint presentations. In the old days, union busting American-style took the form of naked class war with desperate street battles, massive jailings and workers sent to early graves with bullets in their bodies. By way of contrast Michael Lotito never has to worry about washing blood off of his expensive suits. I suppose that counts as "progress" in the eyes of some.
But of course it took more than the Michael Lototito’s to leave our once proud labor movement battered, gasping and barely hanging on to the ropes. The massive shift of manufacturing to the 3rd world, our endemic racial and gender divisions, a hostile government and our anti-social culture of rampant individualism all played a part. It also didn’t help that much of the labor movement got lazy and complacent. Once champions of social justice for all, the labor movement slid closer and closer to becoming just another special interest, looking out for its own members instead of working class people as a whole.
But as bad as things got here in the USA, we should count ourselves lucky. Union busting in much of the world means military dictatorships, mass executions, concentration camps, torture and exile. It seems that the free market extolled by large and powerful corporations means freedom to murder when deemed necessary. Next to that, Michael Lotito looks like Winnie the Pooh.
But what on earth does union busting have to do with crashing an entire global economy?
Let’s take the USA first. It doesn’t take a Ph.D in economics to figure out that people will do what they need to do to survive. As union busting became a national sport here, wages remained frozen or even declined. But our financial system came to the rescue with that magic plastic we called credit cards and that magic paper we call loan contracts.
Maybe you couldn’t pay your medical bills, buy clothes or food, or get your car fixed so you could make it to work. Maybe you wanted to buy your kids a few presents at holiday time or take them out to the movies and an ice cream sundae once in a while. Maybe you just needed a little fun and relaxation yourself. Well, there was always Visa or your Mastercard to the rescue.
Couldn’t afford a decent place to live? Well by gosh, your friendly local mortgage broker was there with all kinds of poisoned loan candy like balloon mortgages, subprime mortgages, interest only mortgages and other exotic answers to your shelter needs.
Debt went through the roof. All it took was a downturn in the soggy debt-laden U.S. real estate market to bring the entire global economy to the brink of collapse. That doesn’t even begin to describe the dangers ahead in the credit card business as huge card balances come due at a time of layoffs and wage cuts. Debt has become the new slavery. Chains of iron are replaced by chains of plastic and paper.
Now you tell me. Was it such a great idea to go on a union busting rampage and pay workers with credit cards and dicey loan contracts instead of decent wages, benefits and low interest loans? Are you listening Michael J. Lotito & Company?
Now multiply that by the global union busting efforts that are a major factor in the starvation and destitution that grips much of our planet. The gap between rich and poor is not a natural disaster like a volcano exploding or an earthquake leveling a city. A recent economic report from the United Nations makes all of that very clear. The massive global debt to commercial banks, the World Bank, the IMF or whoever is a human-made disaster borne out of greed and stupidity.
So thanks a lot Augusto Pinochet, Roberto D’Aubisson, Ronald Reagan, Margeret Thatcher, P.W. Botha, Wojciech Jaruzelski, Alvaro Uribe, Robert Mugabe and all of the politicians, generals, death squad members and torturers who made union busting a global enterprise.
Modern civilized societies need labor movements just as much as they need transportation, water, electricity, food, hospitals, firehouses and so on and so forth. Labor movements are made up of people who organize, work and often fight to make sure government and private enterprise live up to their responsibilities. Here in the USA abolition of child labor, minimum wage, unemployment compensation, social security, civil rights laws, public education, workplace health and safety standards etc. would have been well nigh impossible without the labor movement. So would most of the best social legislation on the rest of this planet.
And so much more remains to be done…
You don’t have to be a union member to take part in a labor movement, but unions are the beating heart of any labor movement. Without unions a labor movement is virtually helpless.
Labor activists often call unions," The folks that brought you the weekend". I would add that without them, modern civilization would be impossible.
Whether armed with slick PowerPoint presentations or something more lethal, Michael J. Lotito and his other union busting counterparts are the barbarians among us.
It makes you wonder why we ever opened the gates to them.