You are hereTruthout Op-Ed: Ronald Reagan, Enemy of the American Worker

Truthout Op-Ed: Ronald Reagan, Enemy of the American Worker


-By Dick Meister

February 2, 2011- The 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth is coming up in February, and before the inevitable gushing over what a wonderful leader he was begins, let me get in a few words about what sort of a leader he really was.

Ronald Reagan was, above all, one of the most viciously anti-labor presidents in American history, one of the worst enemies the country's working people ever faced.

Republican presidents never have had much regard for unions, but until Reagan, no Republican president had dared challenge the firm legal standing labor gained through Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid-1930's.

Reagan's Republican predecessors treated union leaders much as they treated Democratic members of Congress - at times, as adversaries to be fought with, and, at others, as people to be bargained with. Reagan, however, engaged in precious little bargaining. He waged almost continuous war against organized labor and the country's workers from the time he assumed office in 1980 until leaving the presidency in 1988.
Reagan had little apparent reason to fear labor politically. Opinion polls at the time showed that unions were opposed by nearly half of all Americans, and that nearly half of those who belonged to unions had voted for Reagan in both of his presidential campaigns.

Reagan, at any rate, was a true ideologue of the anti-labor political right. Yes, he had been president of the Screen Actors Guild, but he was notoriously pro-management in that position. He led the way to a strike-ending agreement in 1959 that greatly weakened the union. Under heavy membership pressure, he finally resigned as union president before his term ended.

Reagan's war on labor as US president began in the summer of 1981, when he fired 13,000 striking air traffic controllers and destroyed their union.

As Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson noted in 2004, the firing was "an unambiguous signal that employers need feel little or no obligation to their workers, and employers got that message loud and clear - illegally firing workers who sought to unionize, replacing permanent employees who could collect benefits with temps who could not, shipping factories and jobs abroad."

Reagan gave dedicated union foes direct control of the federal agencies that were originally designed to protect and further the rights of workers and their unions. Most important was Reagan's appointment of three management representatives to the five- member National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The appointees included NLRB Chairman Donald Dotson, who declared that "unionized labor relations have been the major contributors to the decline and failure of once healthy industries" and have caused "destruction of individual freedom."

A House committee found that under Dotson, the NLRB abandoned its legal obligation to promote collective bargaining, in what amounted to "a betrayal of American workers."

FULL STORY HERE:

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