4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 8, 2005
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JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editors
EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890
420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
And so many of
the people in the
arena here, you
know, were under-
so this - this is
working very well
- Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on
"Marketplace," a radio show syndicated
by National Public Radio, as reported
yesterday by washingtonpost.com.
\JA t~f rQ
ALEXANDER HONKALA THE FITI? CuMI'-CKET
sou ic s rnol,
Labor isn't doing its job
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK BORN IN THE U.A.
abor Day this
year was, for
nothing out of the ordi-
nary. Hurricane Katrina
might have made the
long weekend more som-
ber, but I suspect it didn't
cancel too many barbe-
cues outside of the disas-
ter zone. Here in Ann
Arbor, the Michigan Theatre kindly confused
Labor Day with Memorial Day and offered
free admission to veterans.
For the labor movement, however, this
was the first Labor Day since three large
unions split from the AFL-CIO this sum-
mer in a dispute over lackluster organiz-
ing efforts. So far, the divide in organized
labor is far less rancorous than it could
be - Teamsters and AFL-CIO unionists
marched together in the Labor Day parade
in Detroit - but only time will tell whether
the union shake-up will lead to the organi-
zation of more nonunion workers or merely
to a further decrease of what little political
power labor has left.
Either way, it's difficult to imagine a return
of the days when Detroit's Labor Day parades
drew hundreds of thousands of people.
Sure, unions won the wages that built up
America's middle class and brought us nice-
ties like the 8-hour workday and workplace
safety measures. Their political clout might
have aided the civil rights movement in the
'60s and got social programs like Medicare
through Congress. Maybe they were impor-
tant - once.
Today, however, only about 8 percent
of private-sector employees are in unions.
American labor is now best known for its
sad rear-guard efforts to protect the jobs
and benefits of its members for a while
until the close of their factories and for its
continual attempts to stop free trade and
globalization, a battle being fought on the
losing side of history.
It's no surprise, then, that it's hard to
get anyone excited about unions. Here at
the University, the situation is no differ-
ent. The visible faces of labor here aren't
those in overseas sweatshops whose efforts
to unionize are met with force, but rather
our lecturers and graduate student instruc-
tors. With the exception of Residential
College kids and other predictably liberal
contingents, their unions don't exactly meet
with full support from the student body.
Wouldn't paying lecturers more raise our
tuition? And why does a grad student need
a union, anyway? (Nevermind the GSI I
recently had who has gone back to school
to earn his doctorate and is supporting his
wife and two kids on a GSI's salary).
Many of us seem quite comfortable work-
ing in a society without strong unions. This
is the 21st century, after all. This is global-
ization, and a high school diploma just isn't
going to cut it anymore. These days, you
can't rely on one corporation to provide a
job for life and a pension until death, and
you've got to pick up skills to make your-
self marketable. Readers whose econ. lec-
tures are still ringing in their heads can add
pious statements about unions leading to
inefficiency through inflexible labor mar-
kets and greater unemployment due to arti-
ficially higher wages.
That's all well and good - for those who
are educated and affluent and competitive in a
global economy. For many in the middle and
working classes whom unions traditionally
benefited, however, a society without strong
unions means fewer prospects for a good job.
There is rather solid economic growth
in this country - but it's overwhelmingly
benefiting the rich. The New York Times
recently commented on the growing income
inequality in this country, noting that medi-
an household income has been basically
stagnant for five years and that all but the
richest 5 percent of society saw real wages
hold flat or fall in 2004.
But the increasing income distribution gap
isn't a new phenomenon; the rich have been
getting richer and the poor getting poorer
here for a couple decades now. I'd wager that
the decline of unions and their demands that
a fair share of corporate profits go to work-
ers has something to do with it.
Unions, if they are to be relevant, need to
adapt themselves to today's economy. This
is globalization, and protectionism just
isn't going to cut it anymore. They need to
focus on organizing workers in new fields,
not on preserving jobs in dying industries.
They need to start fighting for better 401(k)
plans instead of better pensions.
And they need to accept the reality that
globalization is happening, whether they
like it or not. Rather than simply oppos-
ing every free trade deal, they should start
using their political clout to ensure that free
trade includes the right to organize unions
for those in developing nations and job
retraining programs for those who will be
harmed at home.
Ultimately, the American labor move-
ment needs to realize that there's more at
stake here than saving jobs in steel or tex-
tiles. Unions have a key role to play ensur-
ing a fair society by redistributing wealth
from corporations and their wealthy stock-
holders to workers and their families.
Argue all you want for a laissez-faire
capitalist wonderland without unions or
redistribution of wealth to the poor; I'd say
we saw something of that wonderland in
action in New Orleans, as the rich fled and
the poor drowned. A free market without
strong unions simply doesn't do a good job
supporting a fair society with equal oppor-
tunity for rich and poor alike. With any
luck, the AFL-CIO split shocks the labor
movement back to work ensuring good jobs
are available throughout society, and Labor
Day doesn't become a memorial for the
unions we once had.
Zbrozek can be reached at
The case against hurricane relief
BY IMRAN SYED alas, that day is not yet here. Therein laiesy- the nerve to send a "Desperate SOS," just
our problem, Mr. President. There is no room because bodies were piling up around him.
Dear Mr. President, for hot-headedness in this situation, only What a baby! This guy is almost as bad as
Howdy. I realize you're a busy man so let's room for sympathy and level-headed action. those soldiers who want body armor; who do
not beat around the bush. In the wake of last So if anyone like the mayor of New Orleans these people think they are? They want to
week's hurricane and subsequent flooding of blames you for standing by and doing noth- survive - well I want a pony.
the Gulf Coast region, you have come under ing, you can just claim you were playing to Ungrateful people like him need to be
fire for sending delayed and insufficient relief. your strengths. taught a lesson. I say you already went out on
I, for one, would like to congratulate you on So what if National Guard troops arrived a limb - taking time out of your well-earned
your handling of this situation and would like in New Orleans three days after the storm? five-month-long vacation and all. Retract all
to make one important request: Stop sending People should not be blaming you, but rather federal aid in New Orleans; there are only a
aid to New Orleans. thanking you for sending any troops at all. few thousand in need of help now, anyway.
It is clear to me now, it took me a minute It is obvious no troops arrived immediately This petty relief operation is going to cost too
to figure out your brilliant plans that you have because there were none standing by. A lot of much, and you might even have to take some
already thought this through. Sure, there are the people who would have been standing by funds out of your beloved "war on terror."
people calling you a hypocrite for promis- - reservists, they call them - are on active We don't need any of that, there are still too
ing to protect America while standing by for duty in Iraq. Now come on, fighting the evil- many evildoers left to smoke out. And here's
nearly three whole days while New Orleans doing evildoers halfway across the globe is the kicker: Because you've already mobilized
tore itself apart in the aftermath of the hurri- more important than saving our own dying all of these National Guard troops; why not
cane. But great minds think alike, Mr. Presi- people? just send them to Iraq instead of home?
dent, and I am right with you on this one. Some blame you for cutting flood protec- Here's a quick recap: having no signifi-
I now understand that the day you stood tion grants in the years leading up to this hur- cant number of national guardsman stand-
so valiantly on the rubble of the World Trade ricane. Well, I ask how dare they? So what if ing by, even when a category 4-5 storm is
Center and swore to avenge the victims you one of our nation's most treasured cities sud- imminent. Stellar. Cutting flood protection
were acting more out of anger than sympathy. denly has about 500 extra rivers? The impor-, grants for a city below sea level? Smooth
But hey, it's cool. A man's got to do what he tant thing is that you were able-to squeeze to the max. Offering nothing but empty
understands, and if you only understand war, some more money out and use it to give more words to the sick and dying? Touch6. Hay-
then by all means, let us have war. tax cuts to that all-important top 1 percent, ing thousands of troops in Baghdad while
Now that's the problem in this situation, luckily, none of these people are among those gangs take over New Orleans, shooting at
isn't it? There are no enemies we can stereo- starving and dying in the Superdome. Heck, rescue helicopters, looting stores and mak-
type, no countries responsible that we can what's so bad about the flooding? What's ing the police station the fortress of a last
overwhelm and though there may once come wrong with the way New Orleans looks now? stand? Cool, calm and key.
the blessed day when we can nuke that old, Has a bit of that enchanted Venice feel if you
social-security-hoarding, Canadian-drug- ask me. Syed is an LSA sophomore, and a member of
mail-ordering witch named Mother Nature, That foolish mayor of New Orleans had the Daily's editorial board.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Amanda Burns, Whitney Dibo, Jesse For-
ester, Jared Goldberg, Eric Jackson, Brian Kelly, Theresa Kennelly, Rajiv Prabhakar,
Matt Rose, David Russell, Dan Skowronski, Brian Slade, Lauren Slough, John Stiglich,