From the Left



Labor Day Is Over, but Labor's Day Is Just Starting

Jim Hightower on

Last week, I wrote about how Labor Day was created in the 1880s by rebellious workers, but I'm celebrating the spirit again this week because a momentous new energy has been building in today's union movement. Indeed, renewed union rebelliousness has put labor back in Labor Day!

Previously cast as "a day off," it's now a day "on," rallying working class activism and celebrating nationwide strikes by such disparate groups as Teamsters and Hollywood actors. This is making the corporate bosses very antsy, for it's the harbinger of a new order that is undermining absolutist Boss Rule.

Particularly alarming to the plutocratic establishment is the new aggressiveness of the United Auto Workers union under their recently elected grassroots president Shawn Fain. Tossing aside the old willingness to accept incremental changes in contract negotiations, Fain began the current bargaining round by literally throwing the industry's proposal in the wastebasket, bluntly declaring that's "where it belongs."

Such honesty has spooked Detroit's auto barons, who're wailing that the workers' demands are "excessive." This from pampered CEOs each pocketing between $20 and $34 million a year in personal pay! Pathetically, the corporate establishment has had no better retort to Fain than to try its tired old Red Scare bugaboo: "This man studied Trotsky," squealed one squeamish corporatist on TV.

No. Instead, Shawn Fain has clearly studied Walter Reuther, Mother Jones, Fighting Bob La Follette, Frederick Douglas, Cesar Chavez and other American champions of economic fairness and social justice.

An important thing to know about Fain is that he was directly elected by UAW's rank and file members on a platform of in-your-face activism against top-down inequality. The big story is not that a president of one workers' organization is shaking things up, but that organized workers themselves are on the move, demanding economic democracy.


Back to school! Bright -eyed youngsters are now back in our public classrooms, filled with questions about the world around them. Questions like: What happened to our school library, and where did our librarians go?


Sadly, these wholly beneficial, caring educators are being dumped in school trash bins by loopy right-wing ideologues who're out to impose their bigotry and ignorance on America. They've been on a rampage of banning books and demonizing teachers, but now the extremists are saying: "That's not stupid enough -- let's also launch a witch hunt against librarians!"

This authoritarian assault, funded by a clique of far-right billionaires and coordinated by their front groups, has been popping off across the country. But leave it to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to push it from extreme to totalitarianism.

He has unilaterally seized control of Houston's school district (the largest, most diverse in Texas), installing his own whip-cracking, dictatorial overseer. Mike Miles, a former Army Ranger and CEO of a corporate school chain, promptly decreed that to improve reading scores in the district, he would first eliminate librarians from 28 schools in Black and Latino neighborhoods, and second turn their libraries into centers where students who misbehave will be disciplined.

Also, Abbott's education czar demands that all teachers there must reapply for their jobs, agree to follow a centrally scripted curriculum and be monitored by classroom cameras. All this, says Miles with a twisted smile, is meant to give a message of "hope" to teachers and parents. Of course, elimination of independent educational resources and regimentation of instruction will reduce schools to state institutions for obedience training.

And that's the point. The GOP's push to remake education is a billionaire's wet dream of a compliant, subservient workforce: Don't ask questions -- just keep pulling that plow.

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