Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Taking On the Hotels

Taking On the Hotels
By Harold Meyerson
Washington Post

Company by company, in quickening succession, the social contract in America implodes. Verizon and IBM scrap their pensions; Delphi floats a tidy two-thirds cut in pay; profits surge while wages sag and benefits vanish in broad daylight.

City by city, in a now-steady drumbeat, labor and other working-class advocates fight back, with living-wage ordinances, health care mandates on employers and, now coming at the state level, universal health coverage for children. With the federal government supremely uninterested in such minutiae, the battle for a life of middle-class dreams and security is fought region by region, even town by town.

Time was, of course, when it was fought contract by contract, but that was in an America where unions mattered, where they represented one-third of the private-sector workforce rather than today's anemic 8 percent. In a global economy, the conventional wisdom would have it, the bargaining power of unions is the ultimate spent force.


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