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July 23, 2014
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Nasrudin’s donkey


Well, okay, maybe that’s not so obvious. But Nasrudin’s problem is, I think, closely linked to certain current trends, including the anti-union offensive being waged most visibly at the moment in Ohio and Wisconsin, and the problems being encountered by state governments across the country, typified by the budget cuts being proposed by Pennsylvania’s new Governor Tom Corbett.

Many working people today find themselves in plights similar to Nasrudin’s donkeys—dealing with reduced resources, increased workloads, or both, as managers and executives struggle to cope with the demands of our heavily financialized economic system. In that system, investors require ever-increasing profits to be extracted from the efforts of fewer workers through gains in productivity and reductions in overhead expenses. As more workers lose their jobs and unemployment stays high, the remaining workers come under increased pressure to deal with deteriorating working conditions as best they can, rather than take the chance of seeking other employment.

Without a strong labor movement, and without effective government regulation and oversight of the workplace, these trends can only accelerate. We’ve seen the results before, time and time again—as recently as last year’s coal mine disasters, and a century ago in the recently commemorated Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City.

History shows us very good reasons why the union movement came into being. It’s not hard to see the reasons why it has come under such concerted attack now. And there are very compelling reasons to make sure that the gains of the last hundred years are not dismantled.