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Commentary & Opinion

Stephen Gottlieb: Strategies For Working People—Unity Vs. Let’s You And Him Fight

Workingmen and women, white and black, have real grievances. Big shots want you to play Let’s You and Him Fight because then nobody gets anything and all of us slave for the bosses. That’s a game of rhetoric. The big shots bellow about bad people coming across the southern border – women and children mostly – or Black people with the effrontery to suggest that cops shouldn’t be shooting them in the back just because they’re Black. Some whites object that Blacks are trying to be higher on the pecking order but there isn’t a single job produced by that rhetoric and it won’t shrink the deaths of despair that have been taking too many white lives. White men and women want, need and deserve jobs – decent ones that you can take care of your families with. But all Trump gave you is that bellowing. Everyone knows how to create jobs – things need to be built and improved – some talk about infrastructure ‘til they’re blue in the face but Republicans block it – first they didn’t want a Black president to take credit for improving our infrastructure but they insist everything should be produced by capitalistic magic – a fancy way to say they don’t want to do anything for you or the country. The internet and electrical grids need to be improved and hardened – including the retraining that could create a real income stream. But they stopped Obama, and they stopped the work. What good did that give you? Bragging rights? Try and feed your families bragging rights.

The other strategy is unity, working together, forming or growing unions, welcoming everyone so unions get stronger. That’s what Republicans really fear because unions and unity could really get you better jobs, better pay, better lives and better futures. They’ve been cutting back on union rights since the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. I know – only us old guys remember that but it’s been continuous for seven decades – so that unions have been shrunk to a fraction of their former strength. Unions once gave you power, not just bragging rights but money in your pockets.

If we built what this country needs, the country would be stronger and the work would be here in the U.S. The big shots don’t want that; they don’t care about what our country needs or what you need for a decent future. They can invest their money all over the globe. They can have their companies buy company stock back with company dollars and increase its value – that’s a pure financial gimmick, not a reflection of what the company can do – just stock manipulations and it doesn’t do a thing for you.

I don’t believe that our country should withdraw from the world – that would leave us in a dangerously weak position. But we have been watching countries all over the globe, on literally every continent, narrow the gap toward our strength by simply investing in what they need, and investing in the education that produces the trained and educated talent they need. But this government is driven by people for whom only dollars and votes talk – so we’d better get the votes because we sure haven’t got the dollars. Unions and unity can bring those votes together and design strategy that will lead to common objectives.

Either we work together or undercut each other. If we are to get beyond Trumpian bellowing to real results, we have to unite. If we can do that, we’ll all be holding our heads high – and winning what we all need – jobs, salaries, futures, instead of hot air.

Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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