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Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:06 PM

Reading about the late 1800s-labor unions, robber barons, etc...

...and it's kind of remarkable, to me, that many of the issues and controversies back then were eerily similar to the contemporary ones.

The emerging industrial/financial robber barons' enormous power and influence, the economic and social stratification of workers along racial, ethnic, and gender lines, the further divide within the labor force between native-born Americans and immigrants, the way that business owners exploited those differences with "divide and conquer" tactics, the unbelievably self-serving ideology of Social Darwinism among the rich, and the struggle to organize the laboring classes even as the gap between rich and poor grew with each passing year, and that many of the poorest and most marginalized people were utterly ignored or worse, condemned by the political system of the time..


The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Reply Reading about the late 1800s-labor unions, robber barons, etc... (Original post)
YoungDemCA Feb 2013 OP
nadinbrzezinski Feb 2013 #1
YoungDemCA Feb 2013 #2
nadinbrzezinski Feb 2013 #6
Warpy Feb 2013 #8
annabanana Feb 2013 #9
bvar22 Feb 2013 #25
happyslug Feb 2013 #32
surrealAmerican Feb 2013 #35
cstanleytech Feb 2013 #34
limpyhobbler Feb 2013 #3
YoungDemCA Feb 2013 #7
limpyhobbler Feb 2013 #10
valerief Feb 2013 #24
Coyotl Feb 2013 #17
elleng Feb 2013 #4
HiPointDem Feb 2013 #13
elleng Feb 2013 #14
HiPointDem Feb 2013 #16
woo me with science Feb 2013 #18
limpyhobbler Feb 2013 #22
AdHocSolver Feb 2013 #39
Sherman A1 Feb 2013 #5
pampango Feb 2013 #11
HiPointDem Feb 2013 #12
Coyotl Feb 2013 #15
ReRe Feb 2013 #21
AnotherDreamWeaver Feb 2013 #19
yourout Feb 2013 #20
Cleita Feb 2013 #23
onethatcares Feb 2013 #26
WcoastO Feb 2013 #27
Starry Messenger Feb 2013 #28
ProfessionalLeftist Feb 2013 #29
tclambert Feb 2013 #30
mckara Feb 2013 #31
malthaussen Feb 2013 #33
Demo_Chris Feb 2013 #36
senseandsensibility Feb 2013 #37
love_katz Feb 2013 #38
patrice Feb 2013 #40
AdHocSolver Feb 2013 #41
aquart Feb 2013 #42
theKed Feb 2013 #43

Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:08 PM

1. Partly because Americans have a knack

For forgetting history. You are very correct though.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #1)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:09 PM

2. Why do you suppose that is, though?

Is it the ideology of "American exceptionalism"?

Or maybe it's the likelihood that the "Powers That Be", so to speak, don't want current generations of Americans to know this history...

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Response to YoungDemCA (Reply #2)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:14 PM

6. A combo

American Exceptionalism actually is small. Far more important s who controls the flow of information. I can easily have a paper (relatively speaking) in the American Historical Review, but the last comprehensive history of labor goes to the 1960s.

Add to that our traditional anti intellectualism and distrust of book learning going back to the 1740s, and you got a perfect recipe. This is so bad that Union Leaders who should know better, don't know the history of the labor struggle and have...mostly, become easy to manipulate.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Reply #2)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:16 PM

8. The wealthy count on kids being bored in sanitized high school history

The history of labor, of their own people, is never taught, it's all battles and generals and owners and leaders. Oh, and dates. No wonder the kids yawn and throw spitballs.

Americans "forget" history precisely because they were never taught their own history.

That makes them suckers for slick talking admen who sell them slogans while getting them to vote against their own interests. They were never really taught where their own interests lay.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:17 PM

9. ^ ^ ^ ... +1. . . . n/t

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Response to Warpy (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:25 PM

25. Exactly!!!

Those whose fathers and grandfathers fought and died for LABOR and Worker's Rights are now 60 years old.
Those younger have no living memory,
and have forgotten.
Our "Leadership" has no economic of political interest in "remembering".

We WILL have to fight these battles all over again,
only THIS time, the 1% will have the Patriot Act and a Militarized Police/Surveillance State to protect them.
It won't be pretty,
and I won't be alive to see it.

Good Luck to the soldiers in the new War for Worker's Rights!
My spirit is with you.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 07:12 PM

32. In School, my School stop History at the Civil War, to avoid Labor issues

And this is from a School where a massive school shooting occurred during the 1928 Coal Mine Strike. The shooting was reported in ONE of the local papers, then promptly forgotten for the other papers did NOT like the fact that the Strikers were fired on FIRST for keeping the only School in the Mining Area of South Western Pennsylvania open to ALL STUDENTS (Other schools were open, but only to Children of parents who were NOT on Strike).

The Shooting was so bad, they had to tear the School down and buid an new one further up the hill and away from the Railroad tracks.

Some newspaper reports on the incident:

The FIRST Report of the "Riot" on 2-2-1928
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=djft3U1LymYC&dat=19280203&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2-4-1928 Report on the School Shooting:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=rjkbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=MUoEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4546,3386103&dq=broughton-school+shooting&hl=en

More on the Broughton Affair:
Article from the 2-12-1928 Pittsburgh Press:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=s0gbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Q0oEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5042,241013&dq=broughton-school&hl=en

On 2-1-1928 The Press even reported on the Governor, who is reported as an "Coal Operator" i.e. coal mine owner, but he even acknowledged that the Coal and Iron Police had to much power for a Police force paid for by Mine owners and other business (It also explains why on 2-12-1928 the Governor reports said the Strikers did it while all the witnesses said it was the Strike Breakers):
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=djft3U1LymYC&dat=19280202&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

The Broughton riot was so bad, the US Senate ever held hearings on it, but mostly on how bad the conditions were among the miners:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=JQRXAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0kINAAAAIBAJ&pg=1587,6565791&dq=broughton+%26+bruceton&hl=en



Part of the Transcript of the 1915 US Senate investigation on the Coal and Iron Police:
http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5661/


Part of the Transcript of the 1915 US Senate investigation on the Coal and Iron Police:
http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5661/

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Response to Warpy (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 07:26 PM

35. Well said, Warpy!

It's not "exceptionalism": it's ignorance, and it isn't an accident.

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #1)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 07:22 PM

34. Thats a knack many cultures share. nt

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:12 PM

3. What is this "struggle to organize the laboring classes" you speak of?

You see some signs of this in America today?

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Response to limpyhobbler (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:14 PM

7. I mean that it was a struggle and is a struggle

In both cases, an enormously difficult task.

You are correct, though, if you mean that labor unions-and with them, worker's rights-have been eroded drastically in recent decades.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Reply #7)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:23 PM

10. I was just wondering how today's struggle to organize the laboring classes

compares to the struggle 100 years ago. It seems like 100 years ago it was a prominent central feature of American life. But nowadays, it seems like that topic has been marginalized and mostly pushed out of mainstream public consciousness. I could be wrong though.



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Response to limpyhobbler (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:49 PM

17. I certainly is a struggle still! Worse now than the 60s and 70s.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:13 PM

4. Absolutely.

Something about human nature, I suspect.

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Response to elleng (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:43 PM

13. more to do with corporate control and monopoly economic power, i suspect.

 

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #13)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:45 PM

14. all of which derive from human nature,

'me, me, me, gimme, gimme, gimme, more, more, more.'

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Response to elleng (Reply #14)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:47 PM

16. no more than any other human phenomenon does. not all human societies have run on the

 

principal of 'me'.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #16)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:50 PM

18. Thank you.

Corporate values are not natural law.

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Response to elleng (Reply #14)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:07 PM

22. I tend to think the problems described in the top post are not

really a product of human nature, but rather the product of a particular economic system, political system, power arrangements, power imbalances, control of resources, and stuff like that.

If it's a product of human nature, that kind of implies that it can't get much better, and there isn't much room for improvement or progress.

Also not really sure that 'gimmee more, me, me, me' is really a fair representation of human nature. Greed is one aspect of human nature, but so are compassion, generosity, solidarity, loyalty, etc.

Maybe our society is arranged in a way that encourages the worst greedy aspects of human nature. In that case let's change the arrangement so it encourages the better aspects.

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Response to elleng (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 08:48 PM

39. A combination of self-imposed ignorance and fear in large segments of the population...

...leading to envy and hostility to those perceived as "different", that is, perceived as members of a social group different from one's own.

Authoritarian personalities side with those who have power, or appear to have power, and adopt their beliefs and actions as being the same as one's own.

It takes considerable fortitude to buck the prevailing attitudes and opinions of the powers that be.

When the one percent takes over a predominance of the media and spews only one side of any issue 24/7, it takes a lot of initiative and effort to find out and correctly interpret the facts, an initiative many people lack.

Stealing the assets of the middle class and outsourcing huge numbers of jobs to low wage countries is about more than just making profit. Such activities are designed to intimidate, weaken, divide, and instill fear and hostility among the masses.

To understand what is happening, one should watch a documentary on how a group of hunters, such as a wolf pack, stalk prey. They work together to confuse a group of deer, for example, to surround and "herd" or "stampede" the deer, in the direction of waiting accomplices who will select one member of the herd to chase and pull down.

I recently turned on the TV which was airing a program that showed a group of chimpanzees hunting, catching, and eating one member of a group of small monkeys using the same technique.

What is described here would apply to many societies. However, The U.S., at this point in its history, has been taken over by a group having a vulture mentality in its desire to "pick the bones clean". Some among the ruling class have awakened to the stampede toward the cliff.

Hopefully, saner minds will prevail before global climate change and horrific pollution determine civilization's fate.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:13 PM

5. and has been for

about the last 30 years. It's been a reissue of the Gilded Age since Ronald Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:30 PM

11. Here's an article from a few months ago about how similar things are.

A lot of the difference can be attributed to the weakening of U.S. labor law with the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 and after. Among other things, the penalty for firing a worker who tries to join a union is now so pitifully slight that bosses do it with impunity. One really interesting idea put forth by Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit, in their new book Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right, is to extend legal protections under the Civil Rights Act to union membership. That way a worker whose boss fired him for trying to start a union could sue the boss, expose the company to the humiliation of the discovery process, and win significant monetary damages. Kahlenberg and Marvit argue that Americans understand the vocabulary of civil rights in a way that they don’t understand the vocabulary of labor rights.

It’s worth remembering that even at its peak in 1954, private-sector union membership was just a little under 40 percent. (Today it’s about 7 percent, or roughly where it stood before the New Deal.)

Finding ways to revive the labor movement is just about the toughest challenge facing liberalism today, but I don’t think it’s possible to make much headway reversing the inequality trend without it. I don’t pretend to have found a magic bullet, but Andy Stern, who as president of the Service Employees International Union from 1996 to 2010 saw more success in this area than just about anybody else, has a few ideas. He’d like to make it legal for unions to solicit outside funds, which is largely prohibited under the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act. Union organizing is extremely expensive, which is why very little of it is being done today, and there’s a limit to how much labor unions can hit up their members. Stern would also like to negotiate wages industry-wide (as Reuther finally achieved with the car companies in the early 1950s) to remove wage-based price competition from the market. He also thinks the labor movement needs to globalize to keep up with the global economy.

At the risk of being called un-American by Mitt Romney, let me point out that globalism has not rendered unions obsolete in Western Europe. During the 1970s (the decade that coined the term “deindustrialization”), union density actually increased in most industrialized European countries even as it decreased in the United States. ... Richard Freeman calculates that if average earnings for industrial workers in the United States had followed the pattern in these other countries—which faced the same pressures of global competition—then in 2005 the typical American industrial worker would have been paid $25 per hour instead of $16 (more than a 50% increase).

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/the_book_club/features/2012/tim_noah_s_the_great_divergence/timothy_noah_great_divergence_book_unions_in_europe_.html

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:42 PM

12. kr

 

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:47 PM

15. How all that led to the Great Depression! It seems to be cyclical, forgetting lessons learned.

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Response to Coyotl (Reply #15)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:02 PM

21. And we're at the worst...

...end of the cycle.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:52 PM

19. In 1903 Congressman J.C. Cooper from Ohio wrote:

"Handwriting on the Wall, or REVOLUTION in 1907." It has to do with him fighting the Trusts and corrupt voting, child labor and all that stuff...

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 05:58 PM

20. Yep.....anyone see the next Teddy Roosevelt walking around?

He was in no small way responsible for huge gains the middle class made in the 20th century.

Probably the most under appreciated President in US history.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:15 PM

23. We are struggling with the new robber barons today. They are known as the too big to fail

corporations, the unregulated banks and the billionaire class of which the Koch brothers are part of and the energy companies. We need to pull them back. However, how? We are missing our Roosevelts.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:27 PM

26. with everyone being required to piss in a cup

have a credit check, and give employers their passwords to their social media accounts, an employee or wannabeemployee is under the
gun.

I honestly believe that people can be blackballed now, worse than in the 50s, because the way too large companies have access to
information that should stay private.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:29 PM

27. Another history lesson about labor.........

Fascists/Nazis went after unions also. Labor unions were technically legal, but their leadership was eliminated and strikes were outlawed........thus paving the way for the industrial interests over the workers.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:30 PM

28. The system hasn't changed.

 

It's going to get a good bit worse, in fact. At least in the robber baron age, capitalism still had fresh resources to exploit. In this phase, they are going after things that workers have built up for themselves with social capital.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)


Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:53 PM

30. Americans don't like history. It's one thing that other countries have lots more of.

If we cared about history, we might have to pay attention to Europe. So much easier to pretend history doesn't matter.

And, of course, Republicans have to ignore history. That, or admit their policies wrecked the economy.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 06:59 PM

31. Here are Some Other Books, if You Want Some

Josephson, M. The Robber Barons

Josephson, M. The Politicos

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 07:21 PM

33. Interesting parallels between the robber barons...

... and the vulture capitalists of the 1990's. One thing that they often have in common: many of the 1890's barons avoided service in the Civil War and thus got a head start on their peers, and many of the barons of the 1990s likewise avoided service in Vietnam. Nothing causal there, but it might tell us something about... selfishness?

-- Mal

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 07:46 PM

36. "The Jungle" not only tells what was happening, but HOW (cont)

 

It is basically the story of three things:

1. The inevitable end-result of unregulated amoral capitalism

2. Regulatory capture and corruption

3. How the wholesale importation of workers renders the individual worker expendable


The first and second are essentially automatic aspects of pretty much any system left unchecked. The third is more interesting. So long as a corporation can replace any worker who demands more pay, better conditions, benefits, a safe working environment, and so on, unions are limited to public awareness campaigns, picketting, and violence. They are effectively powerless.

During the pre-wars days of the robber barons and depressions, unions and workers had no leverage. There was an endless stream of workers, imported from around the world (along with freed slaves from the south), to feed to their machines. They were importing them wholesale, subsidizing the costs, and working them until they worn out, broken, or dead. But again, the wars ended that, and the unions gained a toe hold.

It took thirty years for the oligarchy to finally gain back the ground they had lost. If they couldn't bring the workers here, they would move the factories to where the workers were. That was "free trade." It was their freedom to move production anywhere they liked, as rapidly as they liked, and still be free to sell their products as if they were manufactured here. We cut our own throats.

And, as always with the big things, both parties worked together to get it done.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 07:50 PM

37. That's what happens when labor history is not taught in schools and it is banned

from even a mention in the corporate media. Not too long ago, there were labor reporters on local newspapers. Imagine. Now we are destined to repeat our mistakes through very much planned ignorance.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 08:00 PM

38. K&R...

And a huge shout-out for posts number 5 by Sherman1,

post # 8 by Warpy and

post # 24 by ValerieF

Word!

You folks all nailed it, and you ROCK!!!!

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 09:10 PM

40. Howard Zinn makes the point that during that period politics developed as a distraction from class

differences that grew out of the beginnings of our country in The Constitution, written by and for the benefit of landed white males, through the economic expansion of their holdings and their enterprises in instruments such as incorporation and contract law (both of which place lower classes at a disadvantage in business), which resulted in the development of the middle-class as an economic buffer between the rich and the poor, a buffer that did the work of making the rich rich, and the political parties developed even further within the medium provided by the middle-class as a means of distracting everyone, the middle-class down to the poorest, from the real distinctions which are economic class distinctions. Zinn's point is that politics, race, and religion are diversions from the economic truths about how America works.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 09:22 PM

41. The difference is in the power conferred by technology.

Control of the mass media enables wide dissemination of propaganda.

Computers allow for organization and significant control of the masses and the world economy.

Modern transportation systems allow for integration of economic systems and the massive outsourcing of jobs.

The technology in control of the current powers that be could destroy civilization and decimate life on the planet.

This situation is a game changer.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 10:14 PM

42. 1877 Year of Violence by Robert V. Bruce

Really good.

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Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:19 PM

43. "All of them were caught in something larger than themselves.

Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshiped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling. If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, The Bank - or the Company - needs - wants - insists - must have - as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters.
"
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

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