With the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935, giving labor the legal right to organize, with the strong support of some churches, most especially the Roman Catholic Church, and with a friendly Democratic administration manifesting itself via the Secretaries of Labor, efforts to unionize working people expanded across the country. By the 1950’s, nearly one-third of all workers were dues paying members of unions. Sadly, that was not to last.
All of that success in organizing gave some labor leaders an exaggerated sense of their own importance and power. In their organizing efforts, they got careless and sometimes inflicted unnecessary harm on private businesses. They began an internal struggle as unions competed with each other to organize particular groups of workers. They began to use a very unfair and destructive tool called “the secondary boycott.” The great strength of unions in this period is that they had successfully trained their members to not cross ANY picket line where some type of labor conflict existed. If they saw Union A organizing a company and Union B felt that this was their territory, then they should have that opportunity to organize there. Union B would then put a picket line up around the company involved and for all practical purposes that company would be shut down even though it had no direct involvement in the labor dispute. It was between two unions, not a union and the company.
This situation was so bad that it could not go on very long. Congress reacted by the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The results were devastating for unionization and persist to this day. For 60 years, organized labor has had as its goal the removal of the Taft-Hartley Act but when they could not succeed even when they were really very strong, it is obvious that they cannot do it today. Unions continue to exist, continue to improve the lives of millions of its members (non-members as well!) but it is but a shadow of what it was in the 1950’s.
The Taft-Hartley Act placed a heavy burden on labors organizing efforts. It solved the unjust problem of “the secondary boycott” but it put in many other restrictions as well and labor has never recovered.
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The election for our new President and Commander-in-Chief is still more than four months away. Four months! If you put that in the context on the Republican side, then at least the process is well over a year old. It is at times like this that I envy the British system being able to change a Prime Minister in a matter of a couple of days.
As I look at the two parties in this country, I am fascinated by the difference. There is really powerful unity in the Republican Party. Its strongest areas are the center of the country from Texas to the Upper Midwest and can safely count on strong majority among white males across the country. The Democrats are very diverse divided into various groups and sometimes are in conflict among themselves. Remember when Will Rogers said famously, “I don’t belong to an organized party. I am a Democrat!”
The great success of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 was that he pulled those diverse groups together and kept them united for a number of years. That included southern farmers, blacks, unionized workers, ethnic groups and academia. For a brief time and under his inspiration, they were able to see that they were all suffering terribly from the Depression and they had to cooperate.
Today, the Democratic Party is still divided but you can add several other special groups that weren’t so obvious in 1932. I am thinking of women, Hispanics and the gay community. Catholics, of course, were overwhelmingly Democratic during the Roosevelt years but prosperity and the abortion issue has caused millions of Catholics to become Republicans.
It will all be over in another four months but each day watching the evening news we will have to listen to the charges and the countercharges, the accusations and the denials. We pay a price for democracy.
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As this great country of ours struggles to choose its leadership for the next four years in January 2013, millions and millions of dollars are being spent on political advertising. It is truly amazing that so many TV ads could be made on the same subject. Countless millions have been spent just in the Republican primary side and multi-millions more will be spent by the Democrats as the election draws closer and closer. Virtually every one of these ads tries to make one of two points: a) their candidate is a natural leader and we need him or, b) the other candidate is no leader and cannot be trusted to run the country.
I am amazed that the script writers could produce so many short ads with very little to work on other than those two sentences but give them credit. They have succeeded!
There is no way that a group of people can work together on a complex issue, subject or project over a long period of time without leadership. Someone has to look into the future, evaluate the situation, pick and choose alternative modes of action and motivate others to move in the right direction. This is true of large communities, the military, great universities, medical centers and anything else you want to name. It is certainly true of the Church. Like every other complex organization, the Church needs and depends on leaders at every level – parish, diocese, nation or the Church universal.
Throughout much of its history, the Church has really been blessed with great leaders. They aren’t always saints but they were able to pull the Church together and move it forward in its divinely established role in human society. The Church is living through a difficult period, a period of adjustment following the Second Vatican Council. When I was a kid, no one ever referred to conservative Catholics or liberal Catholics, progressive Catholics or reactionary Catholics. We were all just CATHOLICS, but those words are very much in vogue today and this is sad.
In my opinion, one of the reasons is that there is a shortage of dynamic leadership in the Church. We are just passing through what may have been the worst scandal in 1,000 years and it has been unraveling for 20 years. The biggest single cause of the scandal, other than the sick priests themselves, is the failure of Church leadership to deal with it quickly and effectively. Recently, the Vatican itself has been going through a number of minor scandals. They are not major issues but their frequency causes the faithful to question their top leadership. Let us all pray that God blesses us with excellent leaders at every level in the life of the Church.
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Governor Romney recently made a very bad slip of the tongue when he stated that he did not care about the poor. The negative reaction was out of proportion to his mistake because he had stated the same thing many times earlier but in an accurate context.
Politicians all make mistakes like this. They are frequently speaking in front of a camera on complex issues and under pressure. For Romney, it is one of a series of such blunders but it too will pass.
A deeper problem is: who does care for the poor? In the nearly two dozen debates for the Republican nomination, virtually nothing has been said about the needs of the poor in this country who are suffering tremendously. For that matter, Barack Obama, while he is pushing constantly for improvement of the job situation, does not make the plight of the poor a point that he deals with directly in his many speeches.
Who does care? The churches and other religious communities that feel the agony and the suffering that is prevalent among millions of our fellow citizens. They need to work more effectively together because there are forces at work that will soon again be making efforts to cut back on the limited resources currently available to the desperately poor in this country.
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There are seven or eight Republicans running for president in hopes of being elected in 2012. Most of them are finally admitting that the great need in this country is jobs. Jobs, jobs and more jobs! Naturally, President Obama, who will be the Democratic nominee in that election, is pushing the same subject. Where were they in 2010? Where were they for the last two years while 2.9 million American jobs were added not in the United States, but in oversea countries?
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities research has just revealed that American companies are paying less in taxes as a percentage of GNP than ever recorded. Now Governor Rick Perry of Texas arrives on the scene to seek the presidency and his main argument is the increase of jobs in the State of Texas during his ten years as governor. We will be hearing a lot about that in the near future.
Harold Meyerson, of the American Prospect, points out that “Texas has the fourth highest poverty rate of any state. It is tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of workers in minimum wage jobs. It ranks first in adults without high school diplomas. Twenty-six percent of Texans have no health insurance – the highest percentage of medically uninsured residents of any state. It leads the nation in the percentage of children who lack medical insurance. Texas has an inordinate number of employers who provide no insurance to workers, partly because the insurance rates are high, thanks to an absence of regulations.”
Although 12% of Texans lacked high school diplomas, that level is rising rapidly. However, Perry slashed $4 billion from K-12 schools. Is that backward? Is that very smart?
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