Your Master’s Voice

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community’s top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call — including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG — were urged to persuade their clients to send “large contributions” to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

Bailout Recipients Hosted Call To Defeat Key Labor Bill

Anyone who thinks about politics and economic and political systems has a problem with conspiracies. Capital, for example, almost always fights efforts to create independent labor organizing. Do the powerful industrialists gather once a year to plan out their anti-union strategies? Apparently, sometimes they do.

Aside from scratching that conspiratorial itch the recordings in the article give us a good feel for what might be called the collective unconscious of capital, that profound, almost instinctive anxiety, if not hatred, for any power that might oppose them. Marcus honestly seems to believe that making organizing campaigns easier signals “the end of civilization” as we know it.

Meanwhile, Obama has begun to unwind the twisted knot of anti-labor regulations put in place by the Bush administration, starting with a series of executive orders and a new law that would help women sue for equal pay. And there is some evidence, from workers in the oil industry, that people are beginning to remember they can fight back.

I don’t know the details of the oil strike well enough to decide if I feel that they did the right thing by agreeing not to strike. I hope, though, that they will not let the oil corporations use the threat of the recession against them. In a crisis all sorts of things that once seemed solid can begin to shift. Pushing back now makes a lot of sense.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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