Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cutting Off Your Nose.....

I was involved in a contract negotiation at a factory where I worked once. The company's initial offer was something like 10 cents an hour a year (which equals $109 a year) for the three year life of the contract. (One of the years may have only been a nickel an hour. I don't remember the details). We voted it down.

Management then embarked on a strategy of terror. They passed the word that if we didn't submit to their offer, they'd close the plant and move it to another location. As if to prove they were serious, they boarded up the windows of the cafeteria, moved some of the machinery to another facility, brought some of our co-workers from another factory in and made us train them to do our jobs. They played games like letting us see our foremen carrying around the ubiquitous pink slips that signaled lay-offs (they turned out to be old ones from a previous downsizing).

In the middle of December, they called for another vote on the exact same insulting contract, not even bothering to add a little extra an hour as a face-saving gesture. They did include a little pot sweetener though, a $300 "signing bonus". Everyone had Christmas on their mind. They thought of how much nicer it would be with an extra 300 bucks to spend. Workers were already worried about losing their jobs if they refused to sign. That measly $300 turned the tide. We voted for the new contract.

I voted no. I didn't care if they shut down the factory. I didn't care if I didn't have a job. I didn't care if I couldn't buy anything for Christmas. If it would have meant I'd have ended up standing in line at the soup kitchen, I'd still have voted against it. Was I willing to cut off my nose to spite my face to deny the owners of the company their victory? You bet. Because sometimes you have to stand up and fight even if you know you're going to lose. Sometimes, it's worth it to inflict some pain on your tormentors as you go down. Sometimes, you've eaten enough crap that you can't tolerate another mouthful.

This is the same way I feel about the Republicans right now. They had all the power for six years and disregarded every rule, or at least what we previously thought were the rules. The conservative party of "fiscal responsibility" squandered Clinton's surplus and piled up deficits higher than we'd ever had before. They held Senate votes open all night (previously, it was limited to 15 minutes) to twist arms to get their fellow Republicans to vote for the Prescription Drug Plan, the largest social program since Medicare. They shipped pallets of hundred dollar bills to Halliburton in Iraq to spend without any accounting. They rode roughshod over the Bill of Rights and the Rule of Law (remember during impeachment when the sanctity of the Rule of Law was their mantra?) They gave their rich buddies huge tax breaks (although most of the mega-wealthy pay taxes at an effective rate of 17% because they have way more deductions they can take than us working stiffs do), thereby ensuring the deficits would soar even higher. (Remember them telling us that tax cuts help the economy? How'd that work out for us?

During the time they were out of power, did they compromise as they are now insisting the President and the Democrats should do? They did not. They continued to stonewall and filibuster just for the fun of it, refusing to pass even programs they approved of if it meant the D's would get some credit (not that I think the Dems deserve much credit).

Fortunately for them, the average American voter has the attention span of a gnat. Obama's been in office two whole years and things aren't perfect so bring the Republicans back!

Now the Republicans are crying crocodile tears again about the deficit even as they insist on extending the tax cuts for the wealthy at a cost of about $900 billion. Now the Republicans, on the strength of a majority in one house of Congress, have offered Obama what is essentially a $300 signing bonus in return for not closing the plant and he leaps at the chance to vote yes. I have not much doubt the rest of the party will eventually go along.

I wish they wouldn't. I wish they'd reach their line in the sand wherever that may be. I wish they'd say, "shut the son-of-a-bitch down then if that's what you think you gotta' do" and vote no on the Republican contract.