In his first State of the Union message, Abraham Lincoln our 16th President of the United States, said, “Labor is prior to, and independent of, Capital. Capital is the only fruit of Labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of Capital, and deserves the much higher consideration.” The date was 3 December 1861.
Here in Chattanooga and Hamilton County the past year, we have been inundated with so many carpetbagging opponents of the card-holding majority of workers at the Volkswagen plant here that is makes Tropical Storm Sandy which hit Chris Christie’s State of New Jersey seem rather tame by comparison. Notice I said “card-holding majority”. Yes, a majority of workers at the VW plant here in Chattanooga already have cards with the union.
The carpet-baggers to whom I referred have as their aim the subversion of that already established result. Some of the more prominent outsiders have been from well-known Koch-affiliates, such as the National Right to Work Committee. Don’t be fooled by the name; the phrase “right-to-work” is an Orwellian term of Stalinesque proportions. The NRTWC’s legal team vigorously works to prevent labor from pursuing its right to work. “Right-to-work” laws favor Lincoln’s Capital rather than his Labor.
Another carpet-bagging group is Grover Norquist’s “Center for Workers Freedom”, which has as much to do with the rights and interests of workers as the anti-abolition Knights of the Golden Circle had to do with freeing slaves in the ante-bellum years. As Deep Throat advised Woodward and Bernstein in “All the President’s Men”, follow the money.
Naturally our business-oriented Governor, Bill Haslam, and our equally corporate-friendly U.S. Senator, Bob Corker, weighed in on what might seem the side of the poor, poor, pitiful underdog multibillion dollar conglomerate. Tennessee House Majority Leader and former Southern Democrat Gerald McCormick agreed.
It is a bit odd, though, that not only have they taken a stance directly opposite that of the expressed will of the majority of workers at the plant (remember the card-holders), but these supposedly pro-business politicos also opposed the expressed will of the management and board of directors of the business in whose name they pontificate.
Perhaps the most insidious of the organizations standing in opposition to labor democracy is the one called Southern Momentum. Though other members have been quoted in the media, its spokesperson is Maury Nicely, invariably called a “labor lawyer” in the media. Since Mr. Nicely’s career has been built upon defending business against labor, that’s a bit like calling Vladimir Putin a gay rights activist. Follow the money.
Please don’t get me wrong; I fully support the right of defendants, corporate or criminal and even criminal corporate, to utilize counsel in the forum of legal proceedings, and I understand Mr. Nicely is good at his job. But what Mr. Nicely and his group advocate is the same as demanding his court opponents come to court unassisted by counsel of their own. Denying workers their own representatives is the same as advocating defendants be denied access to an attorney, which would put Mr. Nicely out of a job.
One of the goals of detectives and agents of law enforcement agencies in interrogations is to bully, intimidate, trick, or otherwise dupe suspects into giving up their guaranteed constitutional rights. For some reason, our legal system holds that this descent into the gutter doesn’t make our LEO’s any dirtier than those they target; in the UK, suspects cannot waive their rights until they have consulted an attorney.
The onslaught taking place with Norquist’s 13 billboards and the rest of what I mentioned above is the attempt to do the same to the workers at the Chattanooga facility of Volkswagen Motors. I urge you all to vote Yes, not only for yourselves and your families, but for all of the rest of us and for all those who have been the target of bullies. After all, he who represents himself has a fool for a client.
It is quite fitting that the vote for representation of the workers at VW by the United Auto Workers begins on 12 February, the 205th birthday of the president who ended slavery in our country, and ironic too, considering his party has become what it is today.