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A Call to Defy Corporate Domination


Mokhiber

and Robert Weissman

Since

1953, the percentage of unionized workers in the United States has declined from

26 percent to less than 14 percent.

Yet,

given the choice of joining a union or not, 48 percent of workers in this

country say they would join.

So,

why isn’t the number of unionized workers higher?

According to Peter Kellman, a member of the Program on Corporations, Law and

Democracy (POCLAD), getting a corporation to recognize a union is effectively

neither a right nor a protected activity.

If it

were, then the 48 percent of the workforce would become union members, elect

officers and start negotiating in a heartbeat, Kellman says.

Americans have the right to strike, true.

But

under a little known 1938 Supreme Court decision (NLRB v. Mackay), corporations

have the right to permanently replace those workers.

So,

what right do workers have?

They

have the right to quit.

The

right to quit?

Well,

remember slavery?

Slaves didn’t have the right to quit. We do. So, it’s a step up from slavery,

Kellman says.

Americans have little understanding of labor history, about the Knights of

Labor, about Norris-LaGuardia (labor’s Magna Carta), about the "labor amendment

to the Constitution" (the 13th), about how the 14th Amendment has been used to

protect corporations as well as to protect African Americans, and about how

Taft-Hartley literally undid the protections granted workers by

Norris-LaGuardia.

Hoping to bridge the labor history gap, Kellman and POCLAD have published a

booklet — Building Unions, Past, Present and Future.

The

booklet is only 37 pages long — short and sweet.

Kellman puts labor history squarely in the context of the growing corporate

power that has crushed unionism as a social force.

"We’ve gone from a period where working class organizations dealt with broader

issues, represented the community generally, to a situation where the union

institution now just represents workers in the workplace," Kellman told us

recently.

Kellman opens a window on the history of the Knights of Labor.

We

learn that the Knights of Labor was a union whose members believed that the

society should be run by consumer and producer cooperatives.

They

believed that workers should exercise power through the ballot and the boycott.

They

believed in equal pay for equal work. They were integrated — black and white.

They had about one million members in the United States in 1886. They were

responsible for many changes, he reports.

They

didn’t organize just in the workplace. Anybody could belong as long as you

weren’t part of the what the Knights called the "non-producing class" — people

who obtained wealth through stock, for example. All others were members of the

working class or producing class.

They

had assembly halls all over the place. In the state of Maine, they had 120

assembly halls, Kellman says.

The

booklet is a joy to read, and should be widely distributed.

As

should a POCLAD poster titled "A Call to Defy Corporate Domination."

For

those of your who know the work of POCLAD, the 500-word poster is a neat

summation of the group’s work and beliefs.

Here

are some nuggets:

Corporations are not persons.

They

are not citizens.

They

are legal fictions created in our names.

We

the People have the authority to do more than beg their bosses to behave a

little less badly.

We

can challenge illegitimate corporate authority.

We

can strip corporations of Bill of Rights powers and Constitutional protections.

We

can oust public officials who enable corporations to trample human rights and

govern the earth. But we can’t stop there.

Millions of people before us learned to escape their cultures of oppression.

They

helped one another decolonize their minds. They analyzed historical and

constitutional barriers erected against democratic self-governance.

Then

they built popular movements to contest the self-proclaimed divine rights of

predatory corporate masters.

Democracy can contest corporate domination. But democracy must be much more than

holding elections, or even redefining business.

Until

we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched, we cannot know

ourselves.

We

suggest buying as many of the booklets and posters as you can afford and passing

them around to friends and colleagues.

[The poster and booklet can both be ordered from: POCLAD, Box 246, S.

Yarmouth, Massachusetts 02664. web:

www.poclad.org Building Unions booklet: Single copies $8. 10 or more, $5

each. Postage/handling: one copy, $2, 2-9 copies, 50 cents each, 10+ inquire

for bulk rates. Defy Corporate Domination Poster -- 1-9 posters, $8 each plus

$3 postage and handling. 10-24, $4 each plus $4 postage and handling. 25+, $2

each plus $6 postage and handling.]

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime

Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based

Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt

for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage

Press, 1999).

Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber and

Robert Weissman. Please feel free to forward the column to friends or repost

the column on other lists. If you would like to post the column on a web site

or publish it in print format, we ask that you first contact us ([email protected]

or

[email protected]).

 

 

 

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