Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Dec. 1, 2 or 3, 2016
Anxiety about Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory teeters on paralysis for some. What’s needed for regular working people is a cross between “Snap out of it!” to a Jason Heyward rain-delay pep talk.
Why? There will probably be more Republican assaults on workers, so inspiration would be handy. For instance, organized labor is vulnerable to a National Labor Relations Board packed with anti-union types, Right-To-Work (for less) standards, and even making criminal organizing, bargaining and enforcing contracts – even existing. (Wisconsin and Gov. Scott Walker could seem like Camelot and Walter Reuther by example.)
Trump’s nominations to the federal bench and the Supreme Court could severely affect legal outcomes there, and the disputes that could be re-heard, revived and expanded – by the high court include “Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association” and an Illinois case, “Harris v. Quinn.”
“Friedrichs” challenged agency fees, which unions charge people represented in workplaces that voted to unionize – requiring representation of employees there even if they decline outright membership. When unions fight for better wages, hours and working conditions, everyone gains; agency fees ensure that everyone who benefits from the collective effort shares in its costs.
“Harris” centered on agency fees, too, for a home health care workers union, and when the Court ruled 5-4 that Illinois’ law permitting agency fees violated public workers’ First Amendment rights, Justice Sam Alito added that “union security clauses in the private sector [also] create a constitutional issue.”
Reacting to Trump’s win, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka straddled the fence between compromise and courage.
Other union leaders rejected Bernie Sanders’ progressive populism to instead support Hillary Clinton, perceived as a steadier, status-quo candidate. But voters wanted change.
“Faced with a moment of record inequality and searing economic pain, a deeply unpopular, wealthy demagogue told voters he understood their misery and would reverse it,” wrote Micah Uetricht, author of “Strike for America: Chicago Teachers against Austerity.”
“To take him on, leaders of the organized working class opted for the candidate whose ties to Wall Street were far stronger than her support for labor and argued that things really weren’t that bad,” Uetricht continued. “To do so, they rejected a wildly popular, diehard union-backing economic populist, thinking the centrist was the safe bet. She wasn’t.”
Sanders recently commented, “Millions of people who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they are sick and tired of the economic, political and media status quo.
“Working families watch as politicians get campaign financial support from billionaires and corporate interests – and then ignore the needs of ordinary Americans,” he added. “There is no compromise on racism, bigotry, xenophobia and sexism, [and] the party must break loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of working people, the elderly and the poor.”
The situation ahead could be compared to what lay ahead for English troops 601 years ago Oct. 25 – St. Crispin’s Day – during the Hundred Years War. King Henry V and his army realized they numbered about 9,000, and the French forces they were to fight the next morning totaled 36,000.
As William Shakespeare wrote as Henry’s speech the night before, “He that outlives this day and comes safe home will stand a tip-toe when this day is named … He that shall live this day, and see old age... will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin's Day.’
“Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember, with advantages, what feats he did that day…,” Henry continued, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers … Gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us.”
(The results of that inspired battle, at Agincourt, was that England’s longbow archers fought off the French cavalry in the muddy terrain, and England lost 112 men while the French suffered more than 10,000 dead.)
Now THAT'S a pep talk.
[PICTURED: A still from Kenneth Branagh's version of Shakespeare's speech from the 1989 film Henry V. Check out YouTube clips: "We are but warriors for the working day!"]