The Virginia Plantation

Leesburg Martin Luther King Day parade, 2015

Leesburg Martin Luther King Day parade, 2015

We “celebrate” Labor Day but it’s a false “celebration”– a sham.

In Virginia, you can be fired at will.

Women are not paid an equal wage or salary as compared to men.

If you’re a person of color and a woman, don’t be surprised if you are treated differently.

If you speak up, you can expect HR (Human Resources) will find some pretext to investigate you.

Companies fight to keep the minimum wage as minimum as they can.

Health care and insurance ever since World War II is tied to your employment, tying you down to work for your benefactor employer.

When you age, if your company puts you in a supervisory position, they can can you despite your age because of that promotion.

If you are a woman, your pregnancy is treated as an illness, not a natural and welcome event.

The company may not give you an agreement but they will obligate you not to compete in a region or the nation for a period of time that relates to your business when you separate from the company.

Employers would rather hire you a contractor and give you a 1099 so that they have even less obligation to your well being.

If you work for a defense contractor and have a detailed contract, the employer may disregard it no matter what it says and invite you to sue them to compel that they comply.

You might say why don’t workers in some companies organize to force an employer to provide better working conditions and compensation that reflects your productivity.

The State doesn’t want its workers to organize.

Virginia attracts business because Virginia respects few rights for workers.

Politicians and elected officials, mostly Republican leaders but not always, here and across the nation seek to suppress wages, and health and retirement benefits, and more, so that their rich political donors can realize greater profits for their corporate contributors.

The leading and usual suspects in \this push to the bottom are the Chamber of Commerce, the National Right to Work Committee and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

One way they hope to keep our workers in fear and disorganized is by compromising the right of workers to organize.

This is “the new slavery” for the “new Dominion.”

They will tell you they vigorously support what they call the “right to work.”

Sounds good, but every working man and woman who has tried to bargain with a company, knows what it really means is a “right to work for less.”

In 1908 the Supreme Court thought that it was just fine for an employer to require a worker not to join a union as a condition of his employment.

The War Labor Board from the First World War reversed field when it forbade employers from interfering this way.

In 1926, Congress passed the Railway Labor Act that prohibited any interference with employees’ right of self-organization.

In 1935, congress passed the Wagner Act (the National Labor Relations Act) that authorized the “union shop” meaning that, if a union had a contract with an employer, that an employee had to join that union.

The “union shop” policy was against moochers, against free riders, like if someone were to hop a metro turnstile to get a free ride while others paid.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes held that the Wagner Act was a statute that “safeguard[ed] the right of employees to self-organization and to select representatives of their own choosing for collective bargaining” without “restraint or coercion by their employer.”

In 1947, a Republican-controlled Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, over the veto of President Harry Truman that said states could bar the “union shop” if they chose.

There’s the rub.

The Reverend Martin Luther King said, “[W]e must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights”

 

About half or our states have “right to work for less” laws and, just as Reverend King said, the average worker in those states makes less, is more likely to be uninsured, the poverty rates are higher, also the infant mortality rates, and they spend less on educating their children, and have a higher rate of work place deaths.

 

We have seen American companies go off shore and abuse workers there and give them that competitive advantage, because they pay so little, work so long, in overcrowded conditions, with underage workers in dangerous work places.

 

Some lament how manufacturing has gone abroad but citizens buy these products here at home because they are cheaper, ignoring the abuses that make these products so competitive.

 

Before the Civil War, Whig Representative Richard Yates of Illinois was concerned about how slavery in the territories would hurt free laborers; Yates said in the Congress, “The free laborer does not wish the labor of slaves to come into competition with his labor.  The effect of slave labor is always to cheapen, degrade and exclude free labor.”

Our Virginia legislature, under Republican leadership, favors policies that “cheapen, degrade and exclude free labor.”

Nothing has changed to alter Rep. Yates’ common sense observation that workers, who are constrained by force of law as to how they may bargain to earn higher wages and benefits, prompt a cheapening and degradation of what other workers may expect to earn as well.

Many have seen the movie, Lincoln, about the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing “slavery” and “involuntary servitude,” as if it was an historical artifact without application to this world but we have a “new slavery” in this old slave state, and it is the constraint upon the working man and woman — and not just with regard to this attack on the right to have a union shop.

The Thirteenth Amendment applies to the conduct of both public and private parties.  In 1968, the Supreme Court said that even private discrimination under the Thirteenth Amendment may constitute prohibited “badges of slavery.”

Even by the first provision of the Thirteenth Amendment, this so-called right to work law causes “involuntary servitude” by those worker’s representatives who are required by federal law to fairly represent a worker while state legislation withholds the expense of that representation in its prohibition against union shops.

The South has been brazen in its extension of the New Slavery for our workers, and long ago made this abuse of workers part of the Old Dominion’s Constitution.

Labor Day won’t mean something, not really, until we correct these abuses of working men and women.

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