"There is nothing more terrifying to corporate America than the prospect of dealing with its workforce on an even playing field, and, along with allies on the Right, it's pulling out all the stops to keep that from happening. At stake is much more than the usual tax breaks, trade deals and relentless deregulation; corporations are gearing up for a fight to preserve a status quo in which the largest share of America's national income goes to profits and the smallest share to wages since the Great Depression -- in fact, since the government started tracking those figures.
There will be many heated legislative battles if 2008 shakes out with larger Congressional majorities for Democrats and an Obama White House -- fights over war and peace, energy policy, health care reform and immigration. But it may be a bill that many Americans have never heard of that sparks the most pitched battle Washington has seen since the Civil Rights Act. It's called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) -- a measure that would go a long way toward guaranteeing working people the right to join a union if they so choose -- and it has the potential to reverse more than three decades of painful stagflation, with prices rising and paychecks flat, for America's middle class and working poor.
The Chamber of Commerce, D.C. lobbyists, firms that rely on cheap labor and a host of "astroturf" front groups are building a war chest that could reach hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to build a firewall against EFCA and other efforts to put a check on corporate power and rebuild a declining middle class. A recent report on the front page of the Wall Street Journal about how Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest employer -- is "mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors" in an effort to discourage its workers from voting Democratic this fall generated quite a bit of controversy. According to a report in the National Journal that received less attention, "several business-backed groups ... (including) two fledgling coalitions fighting labor-supported legislation and the conservative political group Freedom's Watch are trying to raise $100 million for issue advocacy and get-out-the-vote efforts to benefit about 10 GOP Senate races."
It's the EFCA -- the idea that working people who want to join a union can -- that has corporate America quaking in its collective boots. The bill passed the House easily in 2007 -- by 56 votes -- and had majority support in the Senate. But it didn't reach the 60 votes required to kill a GOP-led filibuster, and that massive war chest being amassed by the corporate Right is, in part, an attempt to maintain a firewall of at least 41 anti-union senators -- mostly Republicans joined by a few corporatist Dems -- to kill the bill in the 2009 Congress. President Bush threatened to veto the legislation if it had passed in 2007, but this time around, they fear that a Democrat will be sitting in the White House. Obama was a co-sponsor of the 2007 legislation; McCain opposed it.
The prospect of a filibuster-proof majority that's sympathetic to the needs of ordinary working Americans, according to the National Journal, is making "business groups jittery." Polls show that the economy is Americans' number one concern going into this fall's election; fully 75 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, and these well-funded groups are intent on keeping it firmly on that track.
American Wages and the Law of Supply and Demand
At the heart of the bloody cage match that's likely to come is this: In economic terms, the wages of many -- probably most -- Americans represent a "market failure" of massive proportions. Even the most devout of free-marketeers -- economists like Alan Greenspan and the late Milton Friedman -- agree that it's appropriate and necessary for government to intervene in the case of those failures (they believe it's the only time that such "meddling" is appropriate). But the corporate Right, which claims to have an almost religious reverence for the power of "free" and functional markets, has gotten fat off of this particular market failure, and it's dead-set on continuing to game the system for its own enrichment.
About 1 in 4 Americans has at least a four-year college degree, and many of those degrees are even worth something in the labor market (sorry, art history majors). Others -- Derek Jeter, Bill Gates, a gifted artist or a writer who can turn a decent phrase -- have specialized skills that allow them to command an income that's as high as the market for their scarce talents will bear. There are also people with more common skills who have the scratch (and/or connections) and fortitude to establish their own businesses -- think George W. Bush or a really great mechanic who owns his or her own shop."Much more:
Corporate America Prepares for Battle Against Worker Campaign to Roll Back Assault on the Middle Class | Election 2008 | AlterNet