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December 21, 2005

Against Slavery

Yes, Jordan is right that I am so envious of those blogging the transit strike (Can you send over another Banana Lassi? Namaste.)

But just a quick point that's the most basic about the Taylor Law-- and any law that prohibits strikes.

They are slave laws, nothing less. They tell people they must show up to work on threat of government-backed punishment.

Early in the 20th century, the courts regularly banned most strikes, even in the private sector, and labor progressives denounced those court decisions as a violation of the 13th Amendment ban on involuntary servitude. The Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932 ended much of that power to ban private strikes but left intact the ability of governments to enforce slave conditions on their employees-- covenient that. (Of course, the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act and followup laws led to the banning of a range of other private strikes as well).

Getting paid is not enough to make someone free. They have to have the right to refuse to work, which is why the right to strike is promoted as a basic international human right.

Lech Walesa recently led a group of Nobel Prize winners who condemned US labor practices. It's worth remembering that all those Solidarity strikers in the Lenin Shipyard were government workers. Yet the same folks who loved illegal union actions in Poland often denounce public employees in the US going on strike.

Commuters don't have to love the transit union strikers -- although they should since they are fighting not just for themselves but a whole range of workers -- but should be ashamed of themselves if they endorse the Taylor Slave Labor Law.

Posted by Nathan at December 21, 2005 08:51 AM