A New Agenda for America
August 22, 2017 § Leave a comment
In an essay entitled Common Sense I have proposed the creation of a complex of public fora where issues significant to American values and constitutional governmnent can be presented. Here are some issues which have been ignored, misrepresented or replaced with unjust ideas. They need to be revived and given their rightful place in our publc square.
Racial and Ethnic Jusice
Establishing sane and just relationships between black, hispanic and white people sharing our country has a five century history. Black people, kidnapped and brought here from Africa, endured centuries of brutal slavery before a horrific war freed them. Then, after a brief period of legally protected freedom, effective protection was withdrawn as part of dispicable political deal which bartared their rights away, leaving those living in the South at the mercy of cowardly masked thugs and exploitive politicians. This injustice persisted for decades as a shameful marriage of racist Democratic Party politicians and liberal Democratic Party leaders in the North. Finally, following WWII and some useful Supreme Court decisions, (e.g. Brown v. Board of Education and others ending discriminatory primary election rules), the walls of hate began to crumble. The laws prohibiting employment discrimination were enacted in the 1960’s, but lacked the enforcement power accorded organized labor in the 1930’s. Despite this flaw, progress toward justice slowly continued. Recent generations have benefitted from interracial marriage and social interaction. Our racist criminal justice system persists as an open wound.
This history needs to be taught, exposed and maintained as part of our public discourse
Ethnic injustice toward Hispanic Americans persists, though not as brutally as racial injustice. The plantation of oppression of Mexican American workers in South Texas was moderated when that community’s veterans returned from service in WWII. The political system was changed, but was replaced by a caste system based on the power of new political machine politics. Cesar Chavez led brave battles against the exploitation of farm workers by corporate farm owners. Some moderation has been achieved but more needs to be done. The treatment of immigrants from Mexico and South and Central America is abomnible and President Trump viciously uses fear to encourage their ill treatment, regardless of whether they are children and, in many cases, regardless of how long they have been residing in our country.
This history and the issues it raises needs to be presented to the present generation of Americans in the kind of public meetings I have proposed.
I believe the most important social, economic and legal development of the past hundred and seventeen years was the Wagner Act which enabled, through collective bargaining, the attainment of economic justice in the workplace for millions of Amrican men and women. The creation of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) during the New Deal, in the 30’s, established a new set of standards for working class men and women.
The AFL, consisting primarily of the building trades, had existed since the formation of the nation. It borrowed its ideas from Britain. Crafts, like brick laying, painting, metal and leather working, et al. were taught by fathers to sons. The techniques were closely held in the heads and hands of the workers, so they could contine to be necessary for building and maintenance tasks. It was contrary to these strategies to openly share these skills with everyone. Pay was based on the worker’s skill and experience.
The CIO was based on radically different principles. It was designed for workers in coal mines, factories and refineries. It also attracted industry-wide support work like telephone workers and needle trade workers. Workers were trained on the job by other workers. Pay was based on the degree of danger, the comfort level of the workplace, workplace conditions like heat or cold. CIO unions were in favor of equality for different races and for men and women. However, during the first few decades of its existence, CIO contracts did not comply with its leadership’s ideas about these issues. Contracts typically were discrimnatory against blacks and women. That did not change until forced by legislation enacted in the 60’s.
Sometime in the 60’s, the AFLand the CIO merged, a development that increeased thier bargaining power but adversely affected progress the goals of equality