"You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick . . . And if three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people . . . They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, . . . fifty people a day . . . And friends they may think it's a movement."
(with my apologies to Arlo Guthrie)
I read in the paper the other day that the private sector - American corporate capitalist enterprise - is sitting on two trillion dollars ($2,000,000,000.00) capital, not spending it to hire, to increase production or to start new plants, just sitting on it. I have also been watching Wall Street and reading the reports. It seems Wall Street is doing very well - especially the banks and other financial institutions, the very businesses that caused the meltdown of the economy. Those in charge of those "industries" have not felt the pain, no, bonuses are up as are profits. Meanwhile a recently released study points out that the number of families whose household income has taken a drastic - 25% or greater - negative turn has continued the steady growth that has been occurring for the last several decades. It's the same old song - the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Add to that the follow-up line, and the poor become more and more numerous.
So what would we want to see done about this problem? For most Americans the economy is in the toilet; the ranks of the jobless seem to just grow and grow; American industry has, without any sign of conscience, shipped our jobs overseas; workers in third-world nations are exploited to increase profits while we just lose more and more jobs. The Republicans are relentlessly criticizing the Democrats and especially the President for allegedly failed attempts to shore up the crumbling economy. But what about those capitalists upon whom the Republicans would have us place all reliance for righting this sinking ship? If the corporate-capitalist-pandering politicians (of both parties) believe "free" markets are the answer, that "free" capitalist initiative is far better than government intervention in the economy, why are they not urging corporate capitalists to get off the dime and invest those trillions of dollars in generating new jobs, new plants, new industries? For that matter, why aren't those capitalists doing it of their own accord?
For most of us it seems simple enough - quit shipping industry and the jobs it supports overseas, get back to producing right here at home. But who will make that happen? The owners of industry won't. The politicians won't. And apparently, we won't. Apparently, we don't. Apparently, we are too unwilling to recognize what it means to be part of the problem.
Rather than being part of the problem, what are we doing about it? You and me, what are we doing? It is not as if we are completely impotent. Sure you could petition your members of Congress, for all that is worth. But do you speak with your dollars? Consider how significant "the markets" believe consumerism is. Where does Wal-Mart draw its revenue? Where do you buy? What do you buy?
You and I, brothers and sisters, are NOT entitled to the best bargain, the cheapest price. You and I have no special entitlement to participate with corporate capitalist CEO's in the rape of third-world labor, in the exploitation of child labor. You and I have no special entitlement. Instead, you and I have obligations.
Every American worker whose wages come as the result of a union contract has the obligation to speak with those dollars, to support union-labor jobs by spending those union-produced dollars. You cannot possibly decry the criminality of corporate capitalism's pillaging of the economy if you make no effort to speak with your dollars in support of union-labor products and services. When you shop at Wal-Mart instead of the local, unionized grocery chain, you cooperate with CEO's in the destruction of the American working middle class. When you buy that "inexpensive" pair of jeans made in Sri Lanka instead of Union Line or other union-made jeans, you help to eliminate jobs in America. When you contract with a non-union contractor for home repairs instead of seeking out a union contractor, you contribute to the persistent depression of wages for your neighbors - and, soon enough, for your children and grandchildren. The Wal-Mart motto - "Save money. Live better" - is a lie. If each and every one of us seeks only to find the cheapest means, the lowest price products, we become full participants in corporate capitalism's pernicious campaign to destroy the labor movement and the working middle class. Those of us who enjoy the benefits of union wages have a responsibility to see that those wages go to support the labor movement as fully as we possibly can. Does that cost more money? You bet your sweet ass it does. Be thankful for having been blessed with the opportunity to spend it.
But I should also note that the harder I look to find union made products and services, the more appalled I become at the abject failure of the labor movement itself, especially the AFL-CIO. Sure you can find on the internet the AFL-CIO Union Label & Service Trades Department. But don't expect that to provide a compendium of businesses where you can go to shop for union made products. There used to be an AFL-CIO sponsored website (which I cannot find now) that provided lists of companies offering union-made products and services; but that was always of minimal help in actually locating a retailer or contractor. No, each of us is left to our own devices to do what ought to be done - to find those remaining products and services that bear the union label. You will not find them at Wal-Mart, but you will find them on the internet.
It is certainly time consuming and it limits your scope of choices, but then that is really what this is all about - choices. Next time there is something to buy, think - think about the consequences of your choice; make a conscious choice that reflects working class principles and rejects corporate capitalism's race to the bottom. What will you choose? If you do not speak with your dollars to protect union-labor jobs, who will? Just who will save American jobs? It's your choice. If there is any truth to the capitalist principle that markets respond to demand, that demand should be the voice of your dollars.