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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why some U.S. senators will not support the Big 3? to protect foreign auto companies in their own states

"The heart of Southern conservatism is the preservation of a status quo that serves elite interests."--Joseph Atkins

Listen up. You want to know why Republican Senators McConnell (Kentucky), Sen. Shelby (Alabama), and Corker (Tennessee) are constantly on tv saying they are against the government bailing out Ford, GM, and Chrysler? Because they want to eliminate the competition and because they don't want unions to come South to their neck of the woods. It would upset the applecart of cheap labor in the Japanese, German and Korean auto industries they lured to their respective states by subsidizing them with American tax dollars.

This is all spelled out in a brilliant article written for Progressive Populist ( by Joseph Atkins, veteran journalist and professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi. Check it out.

Even more than race, the South is about Exploiting Workers

Cheap labor. Even more than race, it’s the thread that connects all of Southern history—from the ante-bellum South of John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis to Tennessee’s Bob Corker, Alabama’s Richard Shelby and the other anti-union Southerners in today’s U.S. Senate.

It’s at the epicenter of a sad class divide between a desperate, poorly educated workforce and a demagogic oligarchy, and it has been a demarcation line stronger than the Mason-Dixon in separating the region from the rest of the nation.

The recent spectacle of Corker, Shelby and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky leading the GOP attack on the proposed $14 billion loan to the domestic auto industry—with 11 other Southern senators marching dutifully behind—made it crystal clear. The heart of Southern conservatism is the preservation of a status quo that serves elite interests.

Expect these same senators and their colleagues in the US House to wage a similar war in the coming months against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act authorizing so-called “card check” union elections nationwide.

“Dinosaurs,” Shelby of Alabama called General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler as he maneuvered to bolster the nonunion Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and other foreign-owned plants in his home state by sabotaging as many as three million jobs nationwide.

Corker, a multi-millionaire who won his seat in a mud-slinging, race-tinged election in 2006, was fairly transparent in his goal to expunge what he considers the real evil in the Big Three and US industry in general: unions. When the concession-weary United Auto Workers balked at GOP demands for a near-immediate reduction in worker wages and benefits, Corker urged President Bush to force-feed wage cuts to UAW workers in any White House-sponsored bailout.

If Shelby, Corker, and McConnell figured they were helping the Japanese, German and Korean-owned plants in their home states, they were seriously misguided. The failure of the domestic auto industry would inflict a deep wound on the same supplier-dealer network that the foreign plants use. The already existing woes of the foreign-owned industry were clearly demonstrated in December when Toyota announced its decision to put on indefinite hold the opening of its $1.3 billion plant near Blue Springs in northeast Mississippi.

The Southern Republicans are full of contradictions. Downright hypocrisy might be a better description. Shelby staunchly opposes universal health care—a major factor in the Big Three’s financial troubles since they operate company plans—yet the foreign automakers he defends benefit greatly from the government-run health care programs in their countries.

These same senators gave their blessing to hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to the foreign automakers to open plants in their states, yet they were willing to let the US auto industry fall into bankruptcy.

In their zeal to destroy unions and their hard-fought wage-and-benefits packages, the Southern senators could not care less that workers in their home states are among the lowest paid in the nation. Ever wonder why the South remains the nation’s poorest region despite generations of seniority-laden senators and representatives in Congress?

Why weren’t these same senators protesting the high salaries in the financial sector when the Congress approved the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street? Why pick on blue-collar workers at the Big Three who last year agreed to huge concessions expected to save the companies an estimated $4 billion a year by 2010? These concessions have already helped lower union wages to non-union levels at some auto plants.

The idea of working people joining together to have a united voice across the table from management scares most Southern politicians to death. After all, they go to the same country clubs as management. When Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker warned of Democratic opponent Ronnie Musgrove’s ties to the “Big Labor Bosses” in this year’s US Senate race, he was protecting the “Big Corporate Bosses” who are his benefactors.

The South today may be more racially enlightened than ever in its history. However, it is still a society in which the ruling class—the chambers of commerce that have taken over from yesterday’s plantation owners and textile barons—uses politics to maintain control over a vast, jobs-hungry workforce. After the oligarchy lost its war for slavery—the cheapest labor of all—it secured the next best thing in Jim Crow and the indentured servitude known as sharecropping and tenant farming. It still sees cheap, pliable, docile labor as the linchpin of the Southern economy.

In 1948, when the so-called “Dixiecrats” rebelled against the national Democratic Party, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina declared war on “the radicals, subversives, and the Reds” who want to upset the Southern way of life.

Seven years later, Mississippi’s political godfather, the late US Sen. James O. Eastland, told other prominent Southern pols during a meeting at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis that the South will “fight the CIO” (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and unionism with just as much vehemence and determination as it fights racial integration.

Eastland, Thurmond and their friends lost the integration battle. Their successors are still fighting the other enemy.

Atkins is the author of the book Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press (University Press of Mississippi, 2008), a book that details the Southern labor movement and its treatment in the press.


SagaciousHillbilly said...

Males you wonder how people like that sleep at night, but upon consideration, it makes you realize that there are people in the world who think from a completely different perspective than you and I.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

"males" s/b "makes"

rainywalker said...

Detroit needs to stop wasting money and retool to produce smaller and more efficient vehicles. Stop listening to what the American people say and build smaller vehicles.
Labor unions do not serve the purpose they were designed to do. They get all the money and line their pockets. Unions with a secret ballot can still be effective in the US. Without the secret ballot prices on all consumer goods will quickly rise.

The New Black Woman said...

I've always felt that southern U.S. senators tend to like keeping their constituents behind the rest of the country. And I do believe this is another example of that.

MacDaddy said...

Sagacious:They sleep well. They are used to being sellouts. They were born into rich families with lots of land and cheap labor to work it, usually blacks. It's all a part of being an elitists in the South. And when the natives get restless, they can always fall back on stirring up phone racist bs to keep folks divided.They've been doing this for hundreds of years.

Rainy: I agree with you about the auto industry, but don't think I'm not down on unions as much as you are. I agree that there is a level of corruption and cronyism at the top. But unions and the G. I. bill gave us a middle class and better working conditions. It basically consists of good people who just want a job with decent wages and good working conditions.

Another thing about unions that, although it has racist and sexist historically, it has mitigated against racism and sexism, at least in recent history. Ford and GM, but especially Ford, has lots of people of color and women as supervisors and in their front office. But, being a former union steward and then union rep, I'm probably biased.

"I've always felt that southern U.S. senators tend to like keeping their constituents behind the rest of the country."
NewBlackWoman: This is so true. There is no better way to keep making money off cheap labor, to keep workers divided and themselves in charge than by keeping the people in their respective states ignorant.BTW, I tried to go to comment on your Steels post but couldn't because of the word verification notice. But I still got you linked.

Anonymous said...

Detroit needs to make some concessions on those unemployment benefits, but at the same time we have to keep unions. Otherwise, there is no control in place to keep corporations from turning their employees into a slave force.

Anonymous said...

More reasons to stay in the north -- away from these psycho southern baptist narcisstic power mongers who should be shamed into exile. someone should write a damn test of mental competence in order to qualify to run for public office. they'd flunk in a heartbeat. You can't be a f***ing hair stylist without a degree, but you can run for public office. DANG!

MacDaddy said...

RJ: You're right: unions are the only protection the worker has. By the way, I went to your blog. I love it. And good luck on writing the romance novel.

Anon: I agree with what you say about the South overall. Still, a person can find a few good places to live here and there. But it sounds like you've had some bad experiences in the South. What city? What happened?

SagaciousHillbilly said...

I was never in a union, but the union at the company I worked was directly responsible for the good salary I made. If it weren't for unions, the middle class would never have developed.
My son works for a union. He is one of the most idealistic people I know and has done nothing but sacrifice for the good of the people his union represents.
I'm curious as to how "secret ballots" vs. free choice is going to make a damn bit of difference in consumer prices. Will the Chinese raise the prices on the crap Wal-Mart sells?

MacDaddy said...

Sagacious: All you say is true, and I believe your son will back it up, despite the fact that the heads of a few unions are corrupt.

When I was in the union, the union stewards and union reps I met here in Minneapolis talked openly about the few unions they felt were corrupt and how we had to be true to workers. Later, beginning in the late 90's, they talked about the Clintons selling workers out and not listening to anything union leaders had to say. Hoffa (the son) talked about how he warned President Clinton that NAFTA signed with different countries would take jobs from workers. This came to a head when Clinton signed agreements with China, agreements that we're still working under today, agreements that make it easier fro them to send crappy lawnmowers and poisoned toys to WalMart today. Hoffa put it on the Teamster's website that, as far back as 1999, I believe, he phoned and wrote letters, but President Clinton wouldn't get back to him. That's why the Teamsters worked so hard for President Obama against Sen. Clinton during the primaries. They knew that both Bill and Hillary(who promoted NAFTA as First Lady) sold workers out.

By the way, Teamsters are pretty happy with Obama. They support his choice for Secretary of Labor (Hilda Soris), his signing of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and his promise to review labor agreements.

I believe the real deal is allowing workers to decide if they want union through secret ballots. In that way, they can't be fired by their bosses...In my opinion, unions provide the best protection of workers against greedy bosses and elites like Sen. McConnell and Sen. Shelby. Unions are our last hope of reviving a middle class in this country.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

red states, red neck states and dixicrats, dont forget the carpet baggers

well put

MacDaddy said...

Rawdag: Yes, the carpetbaggers too. As I'm sure you know, they enabled the end of reconstruction, putting former slaveowners back in charge so they build the railroads to take our the cotton, tobacco and sugar through cheap labor. In fact, one could argue that they prosperity that the U.S. has had historically springs from the cheap labor of southern whites and black slaves and black sharecroppers...

Do people want to hear this during a severe downturn in the U.S. economy? I don't think so.

MadMike said...

For almost my entire life, except for the last hundred years or so, I managed to avoid life in the Deep South, until recently, when my greed overtook my good sense and I purchased a home in South Georgia. The culture shock was a shock indeed.

I quickly realized that "southern hospitality" was an expression not a real sentiment. It didn't take me long to connect the abundance of churches and the lack of saloons with anger, arrogance, poverty, and a lack of education.

As one who has always followed the politics, both cultural and social, I learned that the hatred of those dark days in the '50's and 60's lay just beneath the surface as the "n" word was used in conjunction of "Jesus is my savior," God loves all white people and the klan rules.

This is a place of evil and hate. This is a place that properly belongs on the red side of the equation. This is a place that fills me with shame for just living here.

I am sorry if I have offended. I needed to vent and this post allowed afforded me that environment and that opportunity.


MacDaddy said...

Madmike: I'm honored that you would use this blog to vent about the racism and the ignorance in Georgia. But to me, it sounds like you're doing more than venting. You're speaking your truth about what it's really like living among people whose ideas and values are different from yours, knowing that they are not likely to change. But I got two questions:
1. In the short term, how are you going to find more ways to relax or ease the stress so this will not get to you?
2. What are your long-term plans? Will you move back to the North, or some place in the South where you think you would feel more comfortable?

MadMike said...

Daddy....I had every intention of moving to a more civilized part of the country but the economical downturn changed those plans.

Regardless, I am making the best of a an unfortunate situation. I may have been a wee bit too strong in my criticism as there are some fine people here and I have made a few friends. I suspect I may have used a rather broad brush when painting life in South Georgia, nonetheless the centerpiece of the portrait does not change.

In the meantime I just try to remember and understand that ignorance is far from dead in the United States and hopefully time will change those things that can and must be changed. We have, after all, come a long way. we just aren't there yet. Thanks....

Anonymous said...

Madmike, I'm sure their are deep veins of racist stupidity in Georgia, but they're alive and slithering in the North too. During the John Kerry election, I went door to door in a poor, white neighborhood and omigod -- the rednecks that I saw -- I had no idea that was MY Minneapolis.

Just not as overt. The human race is the problem . . . GA's problems are probably amplified because it doesn't get cold enough down south to freeze out undesirable insects and rednecks.

If I sound harsh and bitter, it's because I am. I've been bullied and insulted and demeaned all my life by relatives who are cousins of the rednecks, the Limbaugh Loonies, those Nouveau Riche who look down on anyone without a Cadillac and gold chains.

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