“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining…We demand this fraud be stopped.”
—Martin Luther King, speaking on right-to-work laws in 1961

I wanted to put this piece up again—an interview with Han Dongfang—given the times in the Middle East and North Africa and the United States, Wisconsin in particular. It’s interesting to compare what is happening universally and see what questions the news begs.

A trade unionist I also interviewed from Iraq made it clear how important (and difficult—ie people being murdered) the right to organize is. Colombia is a nightmare for unions. In China, in 1989, Han Dongfang risked his life for the hope of one day having an independent union with collective bargaining (basically the right to have the right to negotiate grievances with an employer). Across North Africa and the Middle East, one can be certain if any freedom opens up, groups will be fighting for similar rights. And in the U.S., in several States, in contrast to all these places, legislatures are voting to make collective bargaining illegal.

It was really something unsurprising yet alarming to hear—in a telephone sting—Governor Walker admit that he thought about using “troublemakers”, so-called agent provocateurs, to infiltrate protests.

Han has said before that China has a so-called union—The All-China Federation of Trade Unions—but it doesn’t have collective bargaining, and thus has nothing.

The labor movement means just this: It is the last noble protest of the American people against the power of incorporated wealth.
Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), American abolitionist and orator

Whatever one’s thoughts on labour and worker’s rights and dignity, this is food for thought.



  1. philip mccormack says:

    Petesy it is more than food for thought. On the one hand we have let’s make collective bargaining illegal, and on the other we have the legislatures, judges etc making it legal to create their own salaries and indexed pensions. Here we have the so-called servants calling the shots in a monetary system they have created which robs the productive classes of their wealth. Let the bureaucrats come to the taxpayer who will decide on their worth; at least this would be equality in a realistic legal world.
    As we have discussed before at all levels of government employees, municipal, provincial, state, federal it should be unpaid panels of taxpayers that decide on their levels of income and pensions. With love Dad.

  2. Interesting thought comparing the utterly ‘unbargained’ collective bargaining of legislators, judges etc to get whatever they want, like indexed pensions in a rapidly devaluing system devalued with help from many in power. That’s much of my point: don’t screw with minimum wage or workers right to be equal with the employee BEFORE dealing with the massive looting of the system by ponzi-finance schemes, the massive devaluing of currency, and a corporate system that is virtually allowed to painfully exploit workers, whenever and wherever legislation or unions aren’t in place. And this isn’t only in dictatorships and developing countries.

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