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Chip Berlet

Chip Berlet


The Attack on Working People & Organized Labor

Posted: 05/13/11 09:29 AM ET

It became clear in 2011 that there was a broad attack on working people, especially those in unions. Ultraconservative members of the House of Representatives, including members of the Tea Party Caucus, relentlessly introduce legislation that would benefit the rich and powerful and slice up the economic safety net most industrialized nations consider part of basic human rights.

Public attention has been galvanized by the attack on working people in Wisconsin by an ultraconservative governor. Appropriate attention has been paid to funders such as the Koch brothers and right-wing institutions such as the American Legislative Exchange Council. But there is a far larger process at work.

Over the past 20 years, right-wing corporate conservatives and economic libertarians have spent more that $170 million trying to convince us that labor unions are bad for America, and that government laws and regulations should not protect a worker's right to organize a union without harassment and termination.

And this is just part of the $1 billion spent by right-wing funders to shift wealth upwards and stomp on the basic human rights of most of us. ($1 Billion for Ideas: Conservative Think Tanks in the 1990s).

The coalition of foundations that fund conservative and right-wing think tanks and other institutions that attack organized labor give money to an array of allied and interconnected think tanks that numerous reports and issue an endless stream of press releases. This creates the impression that there is a groundswell of support for reining in labor unions and government "interference" in corporate affairs. These foundations often give long-term grants that provide stability and ensure the survival of conservative and right-wing think tanks.

Anti-labor campaigns by corporate interests are nothing new, and are frequently masked by rhetoric about freedom of choice for employees. The main framing of these anti-labor campaigns is built around the idea of a "Right to Work." Corporate CEOs and wealthy "free market" economists portray themselves as friends of the working man and woman. Like most Big Lie campaigns, the truth emerges when history and outcome are compared to current rhetoric and promises.

I have been getting a bunch of e-mails and phone calls asking for research resources from activists pushing back against the right-wing campaigns against working people. I always plug American Rights at Work, Living Wage Campaign / Let Justice Roll, and the National Coalition on Health Care. What follows is a set of resources I have helped create for the many progressive activists asking for more background research to help them make their push back more effective.

What is Behind These Attacks?

At the Political Research Associates Website:

Who Funds the Attack on Organized Labor and Working People?

Free Market Mythology (Collectivism Phobia)

Anti-Labor Organizing

What About the Tea Party Movement?

In 2008 some of the same corporate and conservative strategists were developing a series of fake grassroots groups under the banner of the new "Tea Party" rebellion. To just about everyone's surprise, a loose-knit yet powerful grassroots movement of right-wing populists emerged as a tail wagging the dog of the corporate power elites.

This is covered in a very accessible way in an interview of me about the Tea Parties by David Barsamian in The Sun. There is also, a major study of the Tea Parties as a form of Right-Wing Populism. "Taking Tea Partiers Seriously" The cover story in the February 2010 Progressive magazine

I did a scholarly study of the Tea Parties as a form of Right-Wing Populism in a paper for the UC Berkeley Seminar on the Tea Parties
More on the Tea Parties.

More Resources

This page at the Political Research Associates website:

Anti-Labor Activities on the Right has a series of articles on the history of anti-union campaigns dating back to the 1930s, showing how the National Right to Work Committee and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have tried to "flip the script" so it appears that corporate repression of workers is not the problem, unions are!

From Political Research Associates:

Ground Rules & Tips for Challenging the Right

Introductory Slideshow: Right-Wing 101

Studying the U.S. Political Right: A Resource Guide

Conceptualizing & Mapping the US Political Right

Attacks on Obama
"'The Manchurian President': Chicago's Commie Liberal Puppet," In These Times.

"Poking the Racist Beehive," The Progressive.

And for those with a good library nearby: Chip Berlet. 2010. "The Roots of Anti-Obama Rhetoric," in Donald Cunnigen, Marino A. Bruce (eds.) Race in the Age of Obama (Research in Race and Ethnic Relations, Volume 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.301-319.


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