Today the writers are striking because the industry financial models are changing and the owners are refusing to fairly compensate writers within these models. They do it every time and every time the writers and actors and others have to fight the battle anew. Today we aren't seeing blood in the streets, and that's a big relief. But the principles are always the same. It isn't about the rare millionare writer. It's about the many more numerous union members who aren't millionaires and live on those residuals and need those pension and health care benefits. The union is the only security they have.
I was listening to the radio the other day and Paul Krugman was on taking calls. A woman on the show was bemoaning the fact that so many jobs were being outsourced and wondering how we could possibly compete in a global economy. Krugman relied, "One word. Unions." He pointed out that all the other first world economies in Europe and Canada have a much higher rate of unionization tha[n] we do. The breaking of the unions in this country was obviously not essential for economic growth --- it was done for political reasons to benefit the right wing and its corporate owners. It doesn't have to be that way.
Kevin Hayden (also via Libby) has more about those other countries:
... Not only does heavily unionized Europe have a stronger and more fiscally sound set of economies that the world’s lenders now trust more than ours, but they all have universal health care, better social safety networks, better primary public education and lots of those supposedly evil socialism policies that we’re told will weaken us and make us lazy and poor and dependent.
So why is the big money betting on the strength of those economies? and I’m not just talking about foreign investors as the financially brilliant billionaire Warren Buffett announced some months ago he was also betting against the dollar.
Apparently, a blend of capitalism, unionism and socialism is not such a bad thing. Big borrowing and massive defense spending while giving massive tax breaks to the richest in America is proving to be the weaker model.
Adjusting that back to the stronger model is not so hard to accomplish. But the first step to recovery is to overcome denial. Strong unions and smart social programs and cost-efficient spending are good things. Say that out loud a few times, first to yourself, then to your neighbors.
If you'd like to get up to speed on the issues, you can watch the video and visit the Writer's Guild of America website.
There's a petition you can sign here.
Readings on the history of the U.S. labor movement here. Links to famous union activists (including the legendary Joe Hill) here.
You know that expression, "A rising tide lifts all boats"? Well, when it comes to unions, it's true.