By Daniel Becker
Now that the story is getting out that Governor Walke et al’s bill is about more than just busting unions, a little bell went off in the back of my head. Yes, I read Shock Doctrine. Yes, I understand the true concept of fascism. I read What would Jefferson do. I read C & L, AB, Hullabaloo, Glen Greenwald, watch Rachel, Ed, Cspan, etc, etc, etc. And, there are some people pointing out the connections between some of all these perspectives. However, Wisconsin’s current event just seemed too familiar. Deja vue familiar. More familiar than all the reading and listening would allow. It is experiencingly familiar and I don’t mean Egypt.
I mean, we can all see (or at least a majority are now seeing) the thread of connection to all the seemingly disjointed liberal/progressive commentary about what has been happening in America since around 1981. We even are accepting that Clinton et al’s governing time was part of the thread. It’s economic. It’s societal structure, it’s civil rights, it’s power (always is since the constitutional convention).
But, where’s the beef. Show me the money. Where is the materialization most recently that it all came together as to the implementation of the play book that Governor Walker et al are using such that I know this is real…this is really and honestly currently America…American?
The political deadlock in Baghdad, which has prevented the formation of an Iraqi government more than six months after the parliamentary elections in March, has not prevented the administration of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki from opening the southern oilfields to the world’s giant corporations. Nor has it stopped the US Embassy and Commerce Department from reinvigorating the Bush-era program of selling the country’s public assets to corporate buyers. And because Iraqi unions have organized opposition to privatization since the start of the occupation, the Maliki administration is enforcing with a vengeance Saddam Hussein’s prohibition of public sector unions.
The United States may have withdrawn its combat brigades, but it is not leaving Iraq. And while Washington may have scaled back its dreams of nation-building, it has not given up on a key aspect of the economic agenda behind that project: encouraging corporate investment by sacrificing the rights of Iraqi workers.
June demonstrations over blackouts, supported by the union — the first national union led by a woman, Hashmeya Muhsin — were put down by police, who killed one protester and injured several others
Also in June, longshoremen protesting the prohibition of unions in ports south of Basra were surrounded by troops, and the union’s leaders were transferred hundreds of miles from their homes.
In January the government threw the president of Basra’s Iraqi Teachers Union in jail. According to Nasser al-Hussain, an executive board member, the government seeks to establish control over an organization it views as far too independent.
After the 2003 invasion, occupation czar Paul Bremer decided to keep on the books Saddam’s Law 150, which bans public sector unions. Each succeeding Iraqi administration continued the prohibition.
Wisconsin is not Egypt nor the rest of the protesting that is going on in the middle east other than that there is protesting. Not at all. Wisconsin is Iraq for one big, monstrous, sledge hammer to the head reason: Iraq’s oppression and thus resistance by the unions is all American. The union busting to the benefit of capital (big, huge money for the rest of you, as in Rockefeller’s Standard Oil time) in Iraq is purely American. We own it. Yes, we have propped up dictators such as in Egypt. What is singularly different in the protesting of Egypt/Mid East is freedom. They protested for freedom. Now we’ll see if they get unions. However, Wisconsin and Iraq are free. American style free in that Iraq is American made. They also have/had unions
At the end of World War I, Iraqi workers wasted no time in forming oil, railway and dockworker unions in the fragmented country that Churchill had carved out of the desert, connecting the oil fields of three Ottoman provinces–Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. Their hold on the terrain already tenuous, the British occupiers responded with force. Repeated strikes were quashed, often violently.
Under Qasim’s watch, unions along with civic groups swelled in rank and number. By 1959, 250,000 workers had joined unions in Iraq; peasants had formed 3,000 village associations for 200,000 peasants; the Iraqi Women’s League boasted 20,000 members and the Democratic Youth Federation 84,000 youngsters.
Qasim’s “progressive” autocracy was fleeting, however, and in February of 1963, the Baath party, in alliance with a sect of the nationalist armed forces, and with the help of the CIA, overthrew Qasim.
When Saddam Hussein seized control in 1979, he built upon the Baathist tradition of usurping the unions as an instrument of state power. As part of his brutal purge of all leaders and activists refusing to pledge total allegiance to the Baath party, he eradicated all non-Baathist unions. In 1987, the Baathist unions fully backed Saddam’s Orwellian decree: “From now on, the title ‘worker’ is abolished and all workers shall become official employees by the State…As everybody is now a government employee, there is no more need for trade unions.” Interestingly, Saddam did tolerate private sector unions, albeit with certain laws circumscribing their powers. The exception appears irrelevant, because, since the 1970’s through the fall of Saddam, no strikes are known to have occurred in Iraq, according to Political Risk Services, a well-respected corporate consultancy firm.
If you think Obama’s recent commentary is hopeful for unions, guess again
When questioned by reporters about the union bans, an official at the US Embassy, the world’s largest, said mildly, “We’re looking into it. We hope that everybody resolves their differences in an amicable way.” The Obama White House has not spoken out, and the latest State Department report on human rights plays down the oppression of Iraqi unionists, calling their situation a “limited exercise of labour rights.”
Can you say Public Option? I knew you could. However, start asking you gen X’ers and younger if they have heard of the “labor wars
“. You might be surprised, and not pleasantly. Just like the term “rat race
“. Remember that one? You need to.