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Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower
10 Feb 2016
How Corporate Bamboozlers Intend to Widen Inequality in America

The basic problem facing the corporate and political powers that want you and me to swallow their Trans-… Read More.

3 Feb 2016
What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan

The mantra of every Koch-headed, right-wing politico is that government should be run like a business, always … Read More.

27 Jan 2016
Take the Movement to the White House

At a recent dinner with my work team, I was reminded that I had said I wanted to travel less for work this … Read More.

Airlines Battle Workplace Democracy


If you ever want to spook a smug, stuffed-shirt corporate CEO — I mean spook him so bad that he jumps clear out of his Guccis and screams louder than Little Richard — sneak up behind him and shout "union!"

They hate that.

Corporate chieftains get the heebie-jeebies at the mere mention of unionization for the exact same reason that millions of workers perk up at the idea: power. In today's plutocratic, corporate-controlled economy, the most direct and effective way for working folks to assert their interests and restore a measure of fairness to America's economic system is for them to unite in unions.

Indeed, while the corporate powers and their political apologists constantly insist that the union movement is passe — neither needed nor wanted in or modern, globalized workplace — more than 60 million Americans (over half of the workforce) say they would join a union if they could.

Well ... why can't they?

Because those at the very top (corporate executives, board members and financiers) personally profit by holding down everyone else, so they don't want the mass of working stiffs having any real say over such critical matters as offshoring, downsizing, wages, benefits and working conditions.

Unions — which allow employees to amass their strength, coordinate their interests and participate in company decisions that affect them — are a direct democratic threat to the centralized autocracy preferred by the pampered few at the top.

Thus, for the past three decades or so, the autocrats have retained lawyers, lobbyists and lawmakers, deploying them in a determined effort (mostly out of the public eye) to monkey-wrench the rules of unionization in ways that make it hard to impossible for workers to join together.

For example, perhaps you've never gotten around to reading the Railway Labor Act (it didn't make many best-seller lists). But the RLA, which governs unionization elections in both the railroad and airline industries, has a wicked little plot-twist you might enjoy.

When a vote is taken among workers in either of these two industries to determine whether they want to form a union, the law requires that all employees who do not vote be automatically (and autocratically) counted as having voted against the union.

Come on, even Agatha Christie wouldn't have tried something that twisted! Those who did not cast ballots (because they were sick, didn't care, were intimidated, had a family emergency, whatever) should not be counted at all, as happens with no-shows in every other American election.

Happily, the Obama administration has recently issued a new rule repealing this electoral absurdity. But — Holy Kafka! — assorted airline corporations have gone bonkers, bananas and batstuff, screeching that this small step toward the bright light of logic is a demonic perversion of the Founders' democratic ideals. The industry has unleashed its political hounds to howl in protest and demand a reversion to the good ol' autocratic system.

Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia was especially noisy, which is no surprise, since he's a longtime retainer of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, whose labor force is largely non-union. Delta has profited enormously from RLA's quaint, anti-democratic method of skewing unionization votes (it has even included at least one dead employee as a non-voting "no" vote), so it is going all-out to stop the rule change.

Thus, Isakson, whose No. 1 campaign funder is Delta, quickly rose up on his hind legs last month to declare that deleting non-voters from the "no" column was an "assault on employee rights."

No one ever said Johnny was bright, but — wow! — that's dim. How about we apply Isakson's thinking to ... well, to him! In his last election, there were 8.6 million eligible Georgia voters, but only 1.8 million cast a ballot for him. Golly, Johnny, that means 79 percent of Georgians either voted against you or — gasp! — did not vote at all. In other words, those non-voters you love would've unceremoniously drummed you right out of the Senate.

Hmmm, the more I think about it, the more I like the no-vote inclusion — as long as it applies to all of the hypocrites like Isakson. But I doubt he'd vote for that.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




3 Comments | Post Comment
All my life I have heard "the President of the US is the most powerful person in the world", also "wealth = power". Following this logic one would think the President of the US would be the richest man in the world. The cost of everything we buy from a can of coke to military jets has built into it the millions or even billions paid to CEOs, bankers, Wall St. workers, athletes, entertainers, lobbyists, agents, commentators, etc. While I can boycott Walmart, Coca Cola, Exxon, BP, or whoever because I don't like their business practices, the only control over how our government spends my tax dollar is my vote. Perhaps it is time for a MAXIMUM wage as well as a minimum (which needs to be a living) wage. I would suggest starting with the president's salary as a benchmark, that no one getting bailouts, government contracts, special tax breaks, etc. can earn more than the president. With this in effect perhaps the airline executives would not have the money for their bribes (oops, I mean donations) to congress. I personally feel that only Jesus Christ would deserve a billion dollars a year. Perhaps such as Gutenberg, Gandhi, MLK, Louis Pasteur, Cesar Chavez, Hillary Clinton, Barney Frank, etc. might deserve a million dollars a year. I realize some people might have a totally different list than mine but I do think that the list of any honest, thinking person would be pretty long before such names as Buffett, Gates, Brittney Spears, Alec Rodriguez, George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, etc. started appearing.
Comment: #1
Posted by: John Despard
Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:25 PM
I have watched as Unions have been demonized for various aspects of a companies failings and have wondered why this is allowed to continue.
Granted there have been some shady characters in the fights for Unions and I am sure that they were important at the time but their tactics do not diminish the need for Unions in today's society.
As I see it the Union was a product of the workers desire to participate in the American dream and share in some of the wealth built by the companies they have worked for. With the erosion of workers benefits, elimination of pensions, pay not keeping pace with inflation, Unions are even more important that they have been in history.
Now is the time for an eloquent and strong Union leader that will fight for all American workers.
Comment: #2
Posted by: william
Thu Jun 17, 2010 6:15 PM
Unions effecting the production of goods can catch the attention of corporations if they have a moment. Unions effecting the purchasing of goods could hold their attention much more effectively. Employees threatening a company with the possibility of having to move production off-shore is less motivating than a well-organized group of consumers stating it is unwilling to purchase anything from the company until employees get more consideration than a KFC chicken or communities more than contaminated air and water. The Internet has changed the way we communicate. Who would have guessed social networks would have been popular or YouTube could make home movies viral. We have a collective voice, let's use it. We have more power instantly at our finger tips than our parents had in a lifetime. We should not squander it. We should use it to protect our families, our communities and ourselves - the things we really care about. We should organize buyers unions and develop electronic barter systems. We need to change 'buyer beware' to beware of buyers. If neighbors want to do business why should they involve banks and governments and what has become their currency? In the global village we are all neighbors.
Comment: #3
Posted by: jwwbrennan
Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:13 AM
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