The GOP: Keeping Workers in Their Place

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Obama Administration

I hope all of you had a lovely Christmas Day. Now, back to work.

Naftali Bendavid writes in the Wall Street Journal that when Republicans take control of the House, they will be changing the name of the Education and Labor Committee to the Education and Workforce Committee. Apparently, Republicans so hate labor unions they cannot even abide the word “labor.”

This committee changes names every time control of Congress passes to the other party. It had been Education and Labor for a long time, but in 1994 the Newt Gingrich House changed the name to Economic and Educational Opportunities, thereby eliminating both work and labor. But no one liked that name, so later Republicans changed it to Education and Workforce. But when the Dems took Congress back in 2006, it became Education and Labor again. And round and round we go.

Bendavid writes,

“Workforce” is a term employers are likely to use, while “labor” is more evocative of the union movement—after all, they call it the American Federation of Labor. … “Education and the Workforce was the name selected by Republicans more than a decade ago to reflect the committee’s broad jurisdiction over polices that affect American students, workers, and retirees,” explained Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for committee Republicans.

And that’s it — “workforce” is a term employers are likely to use; it is the mass of people who are employed or employable; a resource for employers. However, “labor” can also refer to all people within an economy who work for wages, not just organized unions. In that usage it is a synonym for “workforce.”

So what’s the big deal? IMO Republicans see a “workforce” as something docile and exploitable. A “workforce” doesn’t stand up for itself; it meekly takes its paychecks and does what it’s told.

But labor has muscles. It is uppity and makes demands. Can’t have that.

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15 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Kay Dennison  •  Dec 26, 2010 @12:45 am

    I think you are exactly right. And I also think that things could really ugly if we don’t wake up.

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 26, 2010 @9:02 am

    The good news for today: the “War on Christmas” is over!
    For another year. I understand that casualties were light this year, if not completely nonexistent.

    The RepbuliKlans should just cut to the chase and call it the ‘Propaganda and Arbeit Committee.’ With all of the Christian preaching they want in textbooks, and positive outlooks for all things conservative, it really won’t be ‘education’ anymore, it’ll be propaganda. And instead of “Arbeith Macht Frei” as their new work policy, they can adapt it to ‘Arbeit is Almost Frei – just give us some time, we’re working on making it completely ‘Frei!” But no, there’ll be no slaves. Oh no, even they understand that there has to be some level of political correctness. We’ll all be indentured servants to our Corporate Masters. After all, what is a “workforce,” but people who are ‘forced’ to ‘work?’

    PS: I’m actually a bit surprised that they don’t like the term “Labor.” I mean, if you’re in ‘labor,’ then you haven’t had an abortion, right?
    The ‘Ministry of Truth’ will be open for business in a little over a week. Huzzah!!!

  3. erinyes  •  Dec 26, 2010 @9:18 am

    Back when I lived in “Kalifornia”, if I needed a hand for a day or so, I’d call the union hall and get a man who was skilled in his trade, paid fairly, treated with respect.
    It is not like that in Central Fla.
    The “Left Coast” seemed far more worker friendly, granted that was 20 yrs sgo.

  4. uncledad  •  Dec 26, 2010 @12:33 pm

    In my former life as a union steelworker (12 years ago or so) the industry giant I worked for also stopped calling us labor. The company had a department that had always been known as “labor relations”, they were the people that represented the company in grievance and arbitration procedures (mostly lawyerly types). They changed that name to “employee relations” a few years before I “retired”. I never really considered why until now? I don’t recall anyone getting excited about the name change back then. (I guess they were ahead of their time) The House changing the name of the committees every time control changes hands is so typical of what’s wrong with Washington; they sweat the petty insignificant bullshit details, all the while letting corporate America sell off the middle class to the lowest bidder overseas. Every time I see that clip of John the Boner crying because he’s so concerned about our nations youth not having the same opportunities that he had I always think: hey boner you’re going to be the speaker stop crying and do something about it!

    Cundgulag, yes thank god the war on Christmas is over, now us godless heathens can get back to the work of overthrowing our government and corrupting the minds of our nations youth. No rest for the wicked!

  5. Doug Hughes  •  Dec 26, 2010 @12:45 pm

    “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, has a bill like a duck, you can call it a vulture or a sparrow, but it’s still a duck.” The name of the committee is unimportant, and most of their work will be unimportant compared to the risk/promise/threat of an organized labor force.

    Generally today the USA lacks an organized work force with unions and collective bargaining. People in power on the right (and that’s not Congress) are pushing wages down, slashing benefits and expanding profits. They expect government to keep a lid on things if/when the safety net is removed and hunger and homelessness create a desperate sub-culture. There’s always a chance that the American culture will strike at the foundation of power through a labor movement before that happens, but I see little movement that direction.

  6. moonbat  •  Dec 26, 2010 @2:58 pm

    Well, at least “workforce” is better than “resource” which is/was manager-speak for “people”.

  7. PurpleGirl  •  Dec 26, 2010 @5:03 pm

    erinyes: I thought that Florida might be a “right-to-work” state and it is. Since employees cannot be required to join a union to hold a job or to pay dues to a union, unions remained weak and they didn’t have the ability (I believe) to maintain a hiring hall.

    My father was a member of Local 3, IBEW in NYC. There the contractors and the union operated the Joint Board which wrote work rules and maintained work records for retirement, health care, and other benefits. A man could be sent to a company for a limited time and let go back for an assignment. The Joint Board kept track of this. My father worked his whole career for one contractor, who never let him go even in slower times because he was scared he couldn’t get my father back if ever released back to the Joint Board. The Joint Board also operated the apprenticeship training and advanced training for electricians.

  8. paulo  •  Dec 26, 2010 @5:20 pm

    Still, it takes workers to make a workforce. And there were “Wobblies” before there was capital L “Labor”.

    Maybe a name change would let workers reintegrate once again instead of fracturing into the blue/white collar fiction that allowed the corporations (and their friends) to destroy the union movement.

  9. Bonnie  •  Dec 26, 2010 @6:42 pm

    While Unions suffered greatly under the Bush Administration and they are likely to take some hits with the new Republican Congress, the decline of unions I believe is related more to the attitude of the young people today who see no need for unions. Many are in technology fields, which already pay their employees pretty high. I have read about some tech shops that allow employees to bring their pets to work; thus, working conditions are not something to complain about. However, what the young people don’t understand is that the working conditions they take for granted were created by the Union people working very hard to bring the good working conditions about. They also don’t realize that you have to fight to keep the present working conditions. There is always someone (e.g., Republicans) looking to take this all away from you all for the sake of the bottom line.

  10. Suzan  •  Dec 26, 2010 @6:42 pm

    And once the Rethug-dominated (but what’s new?) Congress gets going, wonder what other new names/policies will magically occur that will help usher in the “shock troops” that will rule until election time 2012?

    Also, how quickly they’ll get the Impeach Obama train roaring down the tracks.
    If he advocates any legislation that they want to derail.

    Good times coming up. (snark off)

    Thanks for the research.

    S

    A “workforce” doesn’t stand up for itself; it meekly takes its paychecks and does what it’s told.

    But labor has muscles. It is uppity and makes demands. Can’t have that.

  11. erinyes  •  Dec 26, 2010 @7:29 pm

    Purple Girl,
    Fl is indeed a right to work state, but their were areas where the unions had some strength until recently; namely Miami / Ft Lauderdale, and at Cape Canaveral. There is some union presence at Walt Disney World, but with the exception of the Ironworkers, they have little strength.
    When I lived in So. Cal.,I worked for five different contractors as the jobs came along until I started my own business.

  12. James Dow  •  Dec 28, 2010 @7:33 am

    When they came for you I said nothing. The question is are we going to quietley allow the Republican party to change the name of the committee without question or explination. This name change thing gives us a great opportunity to have a discussion on the emportance of labor and what it means to the Republican party. They are about to give us a wonderful gift wrapped Christmas present. The question is do we have the nerve or resources to unwrap it?

  13. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 28, 2010 @9:03 am

    James,
    Interesting idea. I hadn’t thought about that angle. Maybe we start here at maha, and go to other blogs and throw that out in comments. And also e-mail, or call Democratic Congresscritters and ask that they bring this up to the news. “Why are our Republican friends (cough, cough) always changing the names of committe’s when they get in charge of a House. Don’t they know that Orwell is dead, and 1984 was a long time ago? Then why the changes, eh?”

  14. Keisha Carver  •  Dec 29, 2010 @4:06 am

    While Unions suffered greatly under the Bush Administration and they are likely to take some hits with the new Republican Congress, the decline of unions I believe is related more to the attitude of the young people today who see no need for unions. Many are in technology fields, which already pay their employees pretty high. I have read about some tech shops that allow employees to bring their pets to work; thus, working conditions are not something to complain about. However, what the young people don’t understand is that the working conditions they take for granted were created by the Union people working very hard to bring the good working conditions about. They also don’t realize that you have to fight to keep the present working conditions. There is always someone (e.g., Republicans) looking to take this all away from you all for the sake of the bottom line.

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