Monday, December 15, 2008

Journalists or Ad Lackeys?

There is a reason journalists nowadays get hired to be politicians' press handlers and communication lackeys.  It's because they write promotional material in place of hard nosed, critical copy. Tennessee's Fourth Estate lately belongs U.S. Senator Bob Corker. The rest of us just consume it.

It's white collar sport to imagine a world without labor unions. How come the press never imagines a world without trade and lobby associations or ownership groups? If even the media won't acknowledge that workers have to form associations to protect their interests in an age of "global free trade" sweatshops, minuscule salaries, and lax regulations, then who might they suggest fight for worker interests? Journalists?

People have been making the whole "there was a time in America when unions were needed" argument for as long as I've been alive.  My mama was making the same argument around about the time that Norma Rae was at the picture shows.

Critics, especially in "right to work" states, always claim that there was a time when unions were needed, even though unions have always faced stiff opposition in the very states the critics occupy. From their founding, unions (which are not perfect) have been accused of dragging down America industry. So, posing the argument as if there was actually a time when unions were needed is disingenuous.

Owners have always been given a pass because their money buys them more rights than those in their employ. But reforms in the workplace, including an 8-hour-workday, worker safety, paid time off, fair trade wages, etc. have always been the result of the workers collectively bargaining to leverage those reforms. The result has been practically Tocquevillian, given that unions have contributed not just themselves but to the common good. Yet, this cabal of media and southern Republicans (with a few Blue Dog Democrats thrown in for good measure) make unions sound more Machiavellian, as if expedience and cunning weren't always already requisites of this power game.

But why should workers have to apologize for fighting for their own interests when owners and trade groups work together to advance their own interests, when the corporate media coalesces to pander to ownership and big money to advance its own interest? Why single out unions? Why, unless you're just guarding your own interests?

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