[Milo's Note: Sometimes I read something and I can only say, "I wish I had written that!" That happened today when an old friend in Texas sent me an article by Bill in Portland Maine for Daily Kos'. From way up in Maine, Bill writes about a true American hero, Texas' own Molly Ivins. I agree with Bill's selection of her words that bear on the confrontation with Labor in Wisconsin. Thanks Bill! Thanks Molly!!!]
Hard to believe Molly Ivins has been gone for four years. Any time I get a hankerin' for some common sense mixed with sass, I crack open one of her books or Google one of her columns. She does a progressive soul good. Yesterday I decided to see what she wrote about labor unions. This is her most-frequently-cited quote:
"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts."In early 1996, she picked up the trail of the democracy-busting Koch Brothers, and gave 'em a little free publicity:
Another major [Bob] Dole backer is Koch Industries ($245,000), now the country's second-largest family-owned industry, and the Koch brothers are among the wealthiest men in the world (estimated worth: $4.7 billion). Among other right-wing groups, the Koches support the libertarian Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy, which should be called Rich Guys for Big Bidness. CSE wants to phase out Medicare completely, and Dole's regulatory reform bill---the one that would effectively repeal most of our health, safety and environmental regulations---is straight out of the CSE playbook.And in 1998, she wrote about California Prop. 226, whose purpose sounds awfully familiar 13 years later:
The plan is simple: If the initiative passes, unions will have to get written permission from each member every year to use union dues for political activity. What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, as long as corporations are also required to get written permission from each shareholder every year before the corporation can use any money for any political activity. But this proposition is aimed only at unions. It would cost the unions millions of dollars and untold amounts of time to get these annual permission slips, and that, of course, is the whole point: to weaken the political power of unions, which are already outspent by business. Just what the country needs, complete domination of politics by corporations and the only organizations that speak for American workers shut out entirely.
It's a column worth reading in full because it gives you a sense of just how long union-busting has been on the conservative radar. (Fortunately Prop. 226 failed.
And then there's this from her 2000 column on the Great Southwest Strike of 1886:
A lot of busted heads and broken lives went into making the eight-hour workday a reality. Think how mad [Great Southwest Strike organizer Martin] Irons and all those other fighters would be at us for letting the corporations get away with mandatory overtime and 60-hour workweeks, month after month.I'm not a big fan of playing the "What would [deceased person] say about…" game. But sometimes you can make an educated guess with relative certainty. And my guess is Molly would be cheering on the protesters in Madison, and urging the "Fab 14" to stay tough and hold their ground.
The thing about corporations is that they never give anything away out of the goodness of their non-existent hearts. As economist Milton Friedman put it, the only social obligation of a corporation is to make money. Workers still have to fight for a decent life.