Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

To The Barricades!

Thomas Hart Benton
Mine Strike
1934

Workers in the heat of struggle throughout the history of the labor movement have often cried “to the barricades” as a last resort to defend their rights, freedoms and protect their means of living. It is a signal that the interests of labor and capital are at distinct odds with each other. When an impasse is reached and the irreconcilable requirements of both parties are unable to be resolved through negotiation, workers take direct action with slowdowns, strikes, sit ins and takeovers as the only means to exert their will and protect their interest.

So it is with great sympathy that we hold up the workers and picketers at Republic Window and Door in Chicago. Last week the management of Republic informed their workers that due to the slowdown in the housing market they are going out of business and that the company cannot pay the workers any separation compensation due to lack of funds. In a radical action to protect separation benefits owed to them in accordance with federal law, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN); workers have taken over the factory in a desperate attempt to secure a just separation settlement. The workers, many of Hispanic decent and members of the United Electrical Union, have barricaded themselves inside the factory in a kind of Battle of the Alamo of the US labor movement.

The timing and circumstances of Republic’s closing is unfortunate and is symptomatic of the country’s severe economic malaise. Ironically the projected severity of the economic downturn facing the US economy is the direct result of the deconstruction and dismantling of America’s manufacturing base. The rationalization of the US manufacturers that began in the 1980’s with Micheal Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert accompanied by a storied SWAT Team of vulture capitalists had to battle and undermine the political clout and power of labor unions to achieve their objectives. The erosion of union power accelerated as membership dropped and the demonization of unions became a political tool used by the Republican’s to attack their rivals in the pro labor Democratic Party. As Republican trickle down economics grew in ascendancy quality of life, wages, heath care and employment benefits for working people have fallen precipitously. The political attacks against unions continue as a large lobbying effort is underway to defeat The Employees Free Choice Act. Without strong unions working people are at risk and remain extremely vulnerable to the debilitating effects of the current recession.

Historically, Chicago has played a central role in the formation and development of the US labor movement. Chicago’s Haymarket Square Riots is a seminal event that propelled the development of the organized labor movement. It was critical to the rise of the American Federation of Labor and endowing unions with the political power to secure the 8 hour working day, better working conditions, decent wage scales and employment benefits. Today as the workers at Republic have walled themselves inside their perishing workplace in an attempt to be rightfully compensated for their exertions and service, Republics management must find a way to meet its commitment by respecting the dignity and economic well being of its former employees. Lets hope that this struggle going on in Chicago represents an awakening for Americas new found respect and support of unions and hopefully not its death knell.

Our prayers and best wishes are with the Republic workers; as they stand in defense for the rights and well being of all American workers. May God continue to bless them with dignity and may the unity of disenfranchised workers serve to assure a prosperity for themselves, their families, and our nation. For truly as it is written in the Gospel of Luke, the laborer is worthy of his pay.

May the Lord continue to bless them and keep them.

You Tube Video: Rachel Maddow, Republic Window and Doors

You Tube Music Video: Pete Seeger, Which Side Are You On?

You Tube music Video: Natalie Merchant, Which Side Are You On?

Risk: labor unions, recession, social safety net, manufacturing, WARN,


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December 9, 2008 - Posted by | folk, manufacturing, social unrest, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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