The Battle for Prosperity, Over Poverty

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

In September of 2011, a vast movement of people from all age, social and monetary status groups converged on Zuccotti Park in New York City.  Soon afterward, thousands more came to join the rallying cries against the 1% who hold so much of America’s wealth.  The speakers eloquently railed against Wall Street pariahs, bailed out banking conglomerates,corporate theocrats, free traders and many others who control the purse strings in this country.

As demonstrations grew around the nation, and worldwide, the protests gained steam and became filled with a certain sense of vitriol. Certain corporate-backed, main stream media outlets did their best to dispel these protestors as nothing more than old, Vietnam era communists, disheveled and unclean young collegiate anarchists who needed to get jobs, and homeless rabble.  They wanted to strike fear into the viewer that protests of this sort are no good to our capitalist society or the American way of life.

We have witnessed this kind of deceptive behavior by the press before when the moneyed class’ vested interests are being threatened. Listen to a description of the Tompkins Square, New York demonstrations of 1874, as recounted by Steve Fraser in, “The Age of Acquiescence.”

“When thousands of destitute unemployed, many of them homeless, including women and children, gathered inTompkins Square Park, 'Bread or Blood' is what they cried.  They were demanding work or relief in what one labor activist called, 'a folk movement of primitive need.'

“Barricades were erected.  Then the police, on horseback, dispersed the protestors in a spasm of brutality.  The local press applauded, damning the protestors as 'communards.' Harper’s Weekly rejoiced at the mob’s suppression because it taught the lesson that 'follies and ferocities of the Commune are alien to American thought and methods.'"

We have heard these stories of peaceful protests demanding some measure of prosperity over poverty throughout the subsequent demonstrations staged by American citizens, and the labor movement.  Some of our politicians, corporate despots and their media hacks, along with some of our institutions of learning, have done their best recently to make the valiant efforts of our ancestors disappear into obscurity.  They want us to forget, and our children to never know of: Haymarket Square Riot (1886), Homestead Strike (1892), Battle of Matewan (1920), GM Sit-Down Strike (1936-37), the more recent Battle in Seattle (1999) against the WTO and free trade’s evils, and of course, the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Fast forward to 2015, and we are on the cusp of watching everything the labor movement has accomplished, be reduced to rubble.  China has crushed our manufacturing base with currency devaluation and the illegal dumping of goods such as steel.  We have watched our Congress hand Fast Track abilities to one of the most damaging free trade agreements the country has ever seen -- the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Corporations such as Target, Wal-Mart and others have introduced us to a period of wage slavery that has permeated and dehumanized the country’s consciousness. 

In the past few months of 2015, the companies of U.S. Steel, Arcelor Mittal and ATI Specialty Metals have made proposals which will set back Labor’s collective bargaining gains over 70 years.  They demand  concessions on wages, overtime, medical benefits for active and retiree members, as well as bidding rights and so much more.  

The sharp dressed CEOs no longer decimate our ranks as Carnegie, Frick and many others have done in the past with clubs and bullets from the militias and the Pinkertons.  Today, they use peacefully insidious and dehumanizing measures that shield them temporarily from the ire of the American public.  They are called downsizing, offshoring, “free” trade, or the newest, soft term replacing layoff: operational adjustments.     

We stand on the precipice of losing everything our ancestors fought and died for: our dignity, our humanity, our ability to achieve prosperity over poverty. The American worker must rise in defiance of this despotism and ignorance.  Our anger must finally beheard.  Our voices must be loud and true: “You can try and threaten my livelihood, you can try and take my possessions, but you will never take my dignity and you will never silence my voice.”

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You can contact Richard on Twitter @stlwrkr4889.

Posted In: Union Matters

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