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Be All You Can Be---Become a Labor Organizer

By       Message Sherwood Ross       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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If you're seeking an exciting career that's really fraught with risk and danger and that makes the world a better place, forget about joining the Army: become a labor organizer!

You'll be called upon to risk your job and your life and to face unjust jail terms for organizing on behalf of your fellow man and woman, with no way to fight back against thugs with guns, tear gas,and billy clubs except by using your wits.

Let's compare the careers of Army officers and labor organizers to see which actually comes closer to fulfilling that wonderful slogan of the Army's:"Be all you can be."

Advertising in the August 26th issue of "The Miami Hurricane," the student newspaper of the University of Miami, a typical Army ad seeks to enroll students in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) with glib generalities such as "Start Taking Charge," "Start Leading" and "Start Getting Ahead of the Game." The ad promises ROTC leads to an Army Officer's commission after graduation and "With a start like that, there's no limit to what you can achieve."

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What the ad doesn't say is that if you're new to the Army you won't be taking charge of much of anything. You'll be taking orders, not giving them. You won't be leading, either; you'll be following. And what exactly does "Getting ahead of the game" mean? Once enrolled, will you be playing games? Is that what's going on in Afghanistan?

Whereas a union organizer can quit any time for any reason, once you've enlisted you're stuck for years and could face jail if you don't want to serve.

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What's more, the Army fights at the whim of the White House and Congress---and they've given the Pentagon authority to gad about the globe forging ties with tyrants and making illegal invasions that disgrace USA in the eyes of the world, if not in the eyes of Army recruiters.

Keep in mind, too, the Army recruitment pitch is all about you. By contrast, a union organizer works to serve others. A recent help wanted ad posted on the Internet by the Service Employees International Union Local 105 of Denver, Colo., which includes many health care workers, called for an organizer who will "Train leaders to educate and agitate other workers about their job rights and other social issues, and motivate them into action." The ad says the organizer must have "A demonstrated commitment to social and economic justice." Army recruitment ads say nothing of the kind, of course. They stress "strength."

Asked about her job satisfactions as a former representative for state employee members of Local 1039 of the Communications Workers of America in Trenton, N.J., Dolores Curry, of Sacramento, Calif., said, "Often, I was able to get (workers') a benefit that was denied them such as sick leave. The union gives workers a voice and gives them a sense of dignity where before it was hopeless for them to redress their grievances."

If you work in American-occupied Iraq, for example, you'll need lots of dedication. The ministry in charge of electricity just barged into all the offices of the electrical union, turned out the lights, and shut them down. Nations like Colombia and Guatemala, with close ties to the U.S., have the worst records of all on workers' rights. Of course, it may all be just coincidence that wherever USA goes, trade unions suffer. Those attempting to suppress the union movement have lost sight of the fact that paying workers more is what energizesan economy, leading to a broader prosperity and, in the long term, to higher profits for owners as well.

In Colombia, where hunting season on trade unionists is open all year, Reuters quoted an International Labor Organization(ILO) official who said 96 per cent of the cases of violence against unionists there go unpunished. "In 2009 Colombia remains the most dangerous place on the face of this planet for workers," the wire service quoted Stanley Gacek, an American on an ILO committee concerned with such matters.

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"The climate of fear fed by killings, abductions and other violence meant only 4 percent of Colombia's 18 million workers are union members, and only 1.2 percent have been able to negotiate their working conditions, according to Tarsicio Mora Godoy, president of the Colombia United Workers Federation CUT," Reuters said.

Globally, only one of 10 workers are unionized, so that of 2.8-billion employed, half are wage-slaves toiling for less than $2 a day. With some few notable exceptions---South Africa, Spain, and Chile---union membership is in decline in most countries, including the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Israel, the ILO finds.

The choice is clear: without unions,the vast mass ofworkerswill subsist as robots in a world of wage-slavery, of "haves" and "have nots," rather than having chance at making a decent living. Two of America's greatest figures understood the value of the working class. Abraham Lincoln once observed that "Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration" and, of course, Martin Luther King was assassinated when he was in Memphis trying to help the sanitation workers.

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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
 

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