Now that the supreme
court has blessed the concept of free riders among American workers,
is it not time to consider withholding taxes to the federal
government for all Americans, on the basis of the First Amendment?
After all, the
decision of the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court
(SCOTUS) has elevated the concept of the parasitic free rider in
union contracts to a right under the First Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution. As part of the war on workers by the rich and powerful
and by Corporate America over the past several decades, a goal of
theirs has been the the impoverishment of unions (the real object of
their hatred) and one of the ways is to support workers who like what
they have in the way of pay and benefits, but do not want to pay for
any of it.
What is a “free
rider?” It is a worker who is paid the same as union workers,
gets the same benefits, the same health care, the same pension as
union members, but does not have to pay dues. That free rider even
has the right to expect the union to defend him or her, when there is
a discipline involved and there are few exceptions to this rule.
They get all the benefits at no expense to themselves. Consider it
this way: A guest comes to a party, at which everyone is to bring a
dish to pass and a few dollars to defray the extra costs. Then, that
same guest, having brought empty dishes with lids, fills the dishes
and takes home food even before the party is over and never drops a
nickel for the coffee.
That's a free rider
or parasite, as they are sometimes known in union circles. Take and
never give. So it was with Mark Janus, the plaintiff, a
child-support specialist for the state of Illinois, whose name will
remain in the history of working Americans as one who allowed himself
to be used by the oligarchs to strike a devastating blow to his
fellow workers. There have been many similar attempts to chip away
at the power of workers in the U.S., but they have not reached the
highest court and done the greatest potential damage as Mark Janus'
case. Usually, those attempts have been funded by a consortium of
individual rich men and corporate organizations, like the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National
Association of Manufacturers. That's how a single worker can be
guided through the complexity of labor law and into the judiciary
system and, ultimately, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The result? Mark
Janus and all of the others of his kind before him, repeat the mantra
that has been prepared and handed to them: “I'm striking a
blow for freedom of all workers, under the First Amendment, to refuse
to pay for what I receive from my fellow workers who are in the
union.” Little players in the scheme of things, Janus and the
rest of the corporate tools are led to believe that what they have
done is not class treason, but striking a blow for freedom...and
they're proud of their treachery.
Now that SCOTUS has
blessed the withholding of union dues or agency fees (or taxes, if
we're speaking of a broader view of our First Amendment rights), this
is the time that the same rights of all workers or all taxpayers to
make the same demands of the federal government. If you feel that
your rights are being abrogated by the taxes that are mostly
supporting endless war and deprivation of the poor, it's time to tell
the government that you are withholding tax payments and that you
expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will back up your position, on the
basis of “Freedom” and “First Amendment rights.”
The Republican majority on the court has backed up Janus, so why not
back up 100 million wage workers whose very same rights are being
denied by their own politicians.
The court's majority
has made living as a free rider a respectable way of living, so there
needs to be a movement toward achieving that end, with the support of
the court's majority, of course. This issue has been dragged through
the courts ever since the enactment of the income tax law in the
early part of the 20th Century and the individuals have been put
down. The Janus decision casts a new light on the subject and it
needs to be revisited. It's true that the mass of workers do not
have the same deep pockets of the ultra-rich and Corporate America,
as a way to fund the issue all the way to the Supreme Court (the only
way Janus and the others who came before him could afford to see
their way to the highest court), but there must be some supporters
with some spare millions who would step up and support a test case,
just as the powerful recruited and backed Janus in his case.
Or, it could be that
the court sees this as a different principle. The right-wing
majority sees the rights of workers as different from the rights of
the powerful and wealthy, and the government. Basically, workers
have few rights, both in their eyes and in the reality of the
workplace, so it was easy for them to find Janus in the right and the
rest of unionized, working America in the wrong. Never forget, the
rights of workers are protected by by the U.S. Constitution and by
law. As it has become clear, however, workers rights have been
shunted aside every time it comes to a face-off between capital and
Unions are the
expression of the solidarity between and among American workers and
it is that solidarity that the powers that be have been successfully
destroying over the past half-century. It is always couched in this
way: “We're not against workers. We just want to curb the
unions that have such awesome power in the nation.” First of
all, union power is the straw man that the rich and corporations have
propagandized for decades and, for the most part, it has been
inscribed deeply in the minds of workers everywhere, to the extent
that they will vote against their own interests on a regular basis,
both in the workplace and in the nation's primary and general
elections. Just ask the elders among the current generation of
Europeans about how effective propaganda can be. It worked there
some 90 years ago amid the continent-wide rise of fascism and it
works here, and the lifeblood of American workers spilled over the
last century is the proof.
But, for now, back
to the U.S. Supreme Court's majority opinion that we are free to pick
and choose what we are obliged to support with our money. They have
set the principle. They have said clearly that their decision is
that the First Amendment right allows all of us to be free riders.
It will take a lot of money to match Corporate America's endless
supply of money that's used to kill the aspirations of workers in the
name of suppressing what they falsely portray as the “awesome
power” of unions.
Working men and
women need to look realistically at their condition and understand
that they are not the ones who are choosing their destiny now, and
that has been the case for generations. They do not choose the
candidates they may vote for, the two dominant parties do. They do
not choose whether to join their union or not. These decisions are
made for them, and don't think for a minute that control of the
debate is not securely in the hands of the powerful employing class.
What those rulers have been doing for a century is making the country
an open shop, one in which no worker is required to join the union,
or to pay an agency fee for their pay and benefits.
In his book, “Toil and Trouble: A History of American Labor,” Thomas R. Brooks a half-century ago, wrote that,
during a time of tumultuous strife between labor and capital a
half-century before that: “...The successful smashing of the
steel strike of 1919 marked the beginning of four years of intensive
union busting that ended in 1924, with a visibly shaken labor
movement. Taking advantage of the hysteria left over from World War
I, employers linked their drive for the open shop to Americanism.
The open shop, they said, would give 'equal opportunity for all and
special privileges for none.' National Association of Manufacturers
president John Edgerton in 1923 solemnly declared: 'I can't conceive
of any principle that is more purely American, that comes nearer
representing the very essence of all those traditions and
institutions that are dearest to us than the open-shop principle.'”
Such a sentiment can
be easily expressed by those who sit in positions of authority and
take for themselves the wealth of the nation. To do that and to
amass vast fortunes, they must have a great deal of control of
workers, those who produce the wealth and who pay most of the taxes.
Taxes from tens of millions of workers add up to those vast fortunes.
The rich have found ways to funnel that wealth into their own
coffers, by tapping into those parts of government where the bulk of
the money resides: military and defense, education, Social Security,
Medicare, Medicaid, the prison-industrial complex, the Postal
Service, and much more. First, though, the rulers have to have
significant control over the Congress and state legislatures. That,
they have achieved.
They are, however,
wary of a unified people, whether in the workplace or in the nation
at large and that's why they use every instrument of control that
they can muster: newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and the
big prize, the Internet. The rich own most of these now, but the
fight to control the Internet is one that is being waged now.
of wealth and political power is further endangering the republic
every day. Statistics show that the greatest equality of income and
wealth occurred about 60 years ago, when unions were at their zenith,
in providing equality on the job and equality in national elections
and setting government policy. Even with the problems of inequality
and racism in some unions, the union movement provided a lift to all
workers. That's what the Janus decision is about: stamping out even
the potential power of organized labor, because a powerful union
movement means less for the rich and corporations, while providing a
more equitable share for all workers. A movement to withhold federal
taxes would tell us whether the high court will represent all
workers' rights under the First Amendment or whether they will just
find another way to coddle the rich and Corporate America, as they
have done in Janus and further take an ax to the union movement.