Labor Unions Still Fighting for their Workers
Ever since Ronald Regan was president, unions have been dying off. Killed, really. The labor movement in the United States grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired.
With Regan’s election in 1980, there came to power an anti-union administration the likes of which had not been seen since the Harding era. Between 1975 and 1985, union membership fell by 5 million. In manufacturing, the unionized portion of the labor force dropped below 25 percent, while mining and construction, once labor’s flagship industries, were decimated.
But recently, there has been a bit of good news regarding unions. Labor unions are vying for new, dues-paying members from California’s growing cannabis industry as a state law legalizing recreational pot took full effect on January 1, 2018. The state market for marijuana is already as valuable as $20 billion and includes tens of thousands of workers.
And while newspapers may be going the way of the dinosaurs, there is good news in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times has a long history of battling unions and winning to keep them out. But times are changing. Journalists are organizing, and organizers say a majority of workers have signed on.
Climate Change News
California is ground zero for many climate change disasters, including wildfires, drought, and floods. The state is trying to prepare for an anticipated megaflood, but scientists say it’s too little too late. Some people say we will see The Grapes of Wrath in reverse as millions of California residents head to Texas, Idaho, Tennessee, or other states with lower cost of living, more affordable housing, possibly less danger of wildfires, earthquakes, and floods, maybe shorter commute times. For almost everyone though, it is the cost of living that drives the migration, and climate change drives up that cost in the cost of heating, cooling, gasoline, health care, and the cost of food.
Meanwhile, if you are like me, you are actively working to reduce the amount of plastic in your life. Unfortunately, we can expect MORE, not less plastic packaging in our lives, thanks to a huge investment of $180 Billion by fossil fuel companies in the US. The companies have invested in new “cracking” facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons. The companies include Shell and Exxon. Please read the linked article in The Guardian, and redouble your efforts to combat the plastic menace.
A few years ago, we saw a mysterious die-off of starfish all along the Pacific Coast. It was a mystery, and it was devastating. It was the largest die-off in history. Now, just as mysteriously, the stars are making a comeback. Starfish (or Sea Stars) are being spotted once again, and the winter months are a good time to see them in tide pools.
War on Women
Two women who were in relationship with each other, and two of one of the women’s children, were found murdered the day after Christmas in Troy, New York. The police chief said he had never seen such savagery. They didn’t believe the murders were a random act. A few days later, two men were arrested and charged with the murders. As I write this column, no word is available as to motive. Given the women’s relationship, the murders should be classified a hate crime, no matter what else comes to light.
It’s time to dust off your pussy hat from last January and wear it again. As publisher Anna March points out in her essay in Salon: “Yes, the resistance has been active — and people’s opinions have changed rapidly on some issues, particularly feminist ones. “Feminism” is even the word of the year. But as the brilliant Sarah Selzer points out in her keen analysis, the resistance is a movement with “mostly symbolic power in a reactionary world.” We have a long way to go in terms of tangible accomplishments like electing Democrats and effecting policy change.”
The organizers of last year’s Women’s March, where we all first donned our pussyhats by the millions, are focusing on getting people to the polls this year. We can change the make up of Congress at the #2018midterms. On January 21, 2018, thousands of women, femmes and allies will meet in Las Vegas, Nevada, to launch the collective 2018 Women’s March agenda: #PowerToThePolls. For those who can’t go to Nevada, there will be state specific events including voter registration drives.
This is the year we must put our dollars and our bodies into interacting with people to win these elections. To get outside our homes, outside our bubbles, out into the streets and malls and shopping centers to register voters.
Sandra de Helen, author of the lesbian thriller Till Darkness Comes also pens the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series. She is a poet, journalist, and a playwright. Her plays have been produced in the Philippines, Ireland and Canada, Chicago, New York City, and in thirteen states. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Dramatists Guild. Her books are available online, at Another Read Through Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, and Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego. Samples of her work are available on her website.