Will 2011 Be America's Year of Union Discontent?

In New York, the revelations that organized labor exacerbated the snow crisis to push their own agenda constitute a shocking display of union power -- power set only to increase in Obama's America.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's aphorism, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," could be the motto of almost any major trade union in America and Britain over the last thirty years.

This has been exemplified by the stunning admission by members of the New York Sanitation Department that the failure to make the streets of New York safe again was in fact a deliberate protest about budget cuts by unionized labor.  If true, it means that union workers have once again put their short term political and economic demands above the health and safety of millions of New Yorkers, and they are at least partly responsible for a number of deaths attributed to the inability of emergency services to reach those in need.

This will shock many people throughout America who see organized labor unions as compassionately representing the poor and voiceless workers.  These trusting Americans were not expecting this selfish display of brutality that has hurt millions of New Yorkers, especially the poor, the elderly, and the incapacitated.

However, to any Englishman with knowledge of his own political history, this story will trigger not shock, but a shudder as he recalls those moments when unions have crippled Britain in the past, and in the last year.  Traditionally, it has always been in the winter that the unions wield the iron fist of power given to them by naïve left-wing governments.

The most famous of such moments in Britain was the winter of 1978-79 -- the Winter of Discontent.  Throughout the 1970s, Britain was beaten black and blue by the demands and strikes of gas unions, rail unions, coal miners' unions, and a whole range of smaller unions determined to bring as much inconvenience as they possibly could to the country which they claimed to be working for.  This resulted in a three-day week and constant power outages as well as countless daily troubles inflicted on the citizenry.  My parents got used to doing their homework by candlelight throughout the 1970s as the electricity would frequently turn off at seven in the evening. 

This culminated in the aforementioned Winter of Discontent that finally brought the country to its knees.  NHS workers blocked the entrances to hospitals, garbage bins went un-emptied, trains shut down, gas stations closed, basic supplies failed to reach stores, and, most famously, bodies were left unburied for days while gravediggers went on strike in Liverpool. 

It took three terms of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister to finally break the grip of the unions, which was broken only after what was for all intents and purposes a civil war for the soul of Britain [i].  Yet once the left-wing Labour Party reclaimed power in 1997, they immediately began handing large chunks of power back to the same trade unions (who also happen to make up Labour's primary source of funding and support). 

Although there is now a slightly more centrist coalition in power, there have not yet been significant efforts to curb union influence, and this has led to chaos throughout 2010.  Amongst the many disruptions, we have seen continual strikes (consisting of 22 days of chaos) throughout the year by British Airways cabin crew, encouraged by the infamous Unite trade union leader, "Red" Len McCluskey.  This winter alone, we have seen strikes over Christmas by workers for Northern Rail (that left only 20% of their services running during the busiest periods), railway strikes in Wales, and London Underground services shut down on Boxing Day by striking workers. 

Yet it is 2011 that the unions see as the year in which to usher in another Winter of Discontent.  Violent strikes and riots are being threatened by labor union leaders, and British Airways workers are planning on more strikes in the new year, despite the current chaos at Heathrow and Gatwick that has ruined the Christmas season for many people.  Apparently the union bosses' compassion does not include those outside their militant ranks.

Even the Royal Wedding, an event that will revive Britain's prestige and could boost Britain's failing economy by billions, could be hijacked by socialist trade unions in order to maximize disruption in the capital -- all to achieve hard-left political aims.  If the Royal Wedding goes poorly, it could cost Britain billions and make our nation a mockery on the international stage.  Needless to say, the Trotskyites who infect the British labor unions are not the least bit interested in all that.

Americans should look at what is going on in Britain and see their future.  Barack Obama makes Gordon Brown look like Margaret Thatcher when it comes to treatment of trade unions.  In April 2010, Obama told the SEIU that he was a "pro-union guy" and told the public, "[Y]ou've got to be appreciative of what unions have done."  Nationalization of industry always benefits unions, as do Obama's spending packages that have always been a source of pork for the unions -- with such funding looking set to continue.  Joe Biden's assurance to the unions only a few months ago that "we still need you" looks like an accurate statement of where the power lies, and whom future Democrat policies will benefit.

Yet this is not just about spending.  As has been shown in Britain time and time again, and in New York just recently, left-wing policies do not just spend money on unions, but they also hand them power -- power that unions will use with devastating consequences.

As spending cuts begin to trickle through in both Britain and America in 2011, the unions will use the power that our well-meaning left-wing friends have spent years handing to them, and they will use it to bring our nations to their knees.  While America is not yet in the dire unionized state that Britain is in, if the American public allows Obama's sycophantic fawning over the unions to continue, then Britain's ongoing civil war with the hard-left trade unions will also be America's war before long. 

Adam Shaw is a British-born conservative writer.  His blog is The Anglo-American Debate.  Follow him on Twitter: @ACShaw.


[i] For a comprehensive account of the subject, see C Berlinski, "There is No Alternative": Why Margaret Thatcher Matters (New York: Basic Books, 2008).
In New York, the revelations that organized labor exacerbated the snow crisis to push their own agenda constitute a shocking display of union power -- power set only to increase in Obama's America.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's aphorism, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," could be the motto of almost any major trade union in America and Britain over the last thirty years.

This has been exemplified by the stunning admission by members of the New York Sanitation Department that the failure to make the streets of New York safe again was in fact a deliberate protest about budget cuts by unionized labor.  If true, it means that union workers have once again put their short term political and economic demands above the health and safety of millions of New Yorkers, and they are at least partly responsible for a number of deaths attributed to the inability of emergency services to reach those in need.

This will shock many people throughout America who see organized labor unions as compassionately representing the poor and voiceless workers.  These trusting Americans were not expecting this selfish display of brutality that has hurt millions of New Yorkers, especially the poor, the elderly, and the incapacitated.

However, to any Englishman with knowledge of his own political history, this story will trigger not shock, but a shudder as he recalls those moments when unions have crippled Britain in the past, and in the last year.  Traditionally, it has always been in the winter that the unions wield the iron fist of power given to them by naïve left-wing governments.

The most famous of such moments in Britain was the winter of 1978-79 -- the Winter of Discontent.  Throughout the 1970s, Britain was beaten black and blue by the demands and strikes of gas unions, rail unions, coal miners' unions, and a whole range of smaller unions determined to bring as much inconvenience as they possibly could to the country which they claimed to be working for.  This resulted in a three-day week and constant power outages as well as countless daily troubles inflicted on the citizenry.  My parents got used to doing their homework by candlelight throughout the 1970s as the electricity would frequently turn off at seven in the evening. 

This culminated in the aforementioned Winter of Discontent that finally brought the country to its knees.  NHS workers blocked the entrances to hospitals, garbage bins went un-emptied, trains shut down, gas stations closed, basic supplies failed to reach stores, and, most famously, bodies were left unburied for days while gravediggers went on strike in Liverpool. 

It took three terms of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister to finally break the grip of the unions, which was broken only after what was for all intents and purposes a civil war for the soul of Britain [i].  Yet once the left-wing Labour Party reclaimed power in 1997, they immediately began handing large chunks of power back to the same trade unions (who also happen to make up Labour's primary source of funding and support). 

Although there is now a slightly more centrist coalition in power, there have not yet been significant efforts to curb union influence, and this has led to chaos throughout 2010.  Amongst the many disruptions, we have seen continual strikes (consisting of 22 days of chaos) throughout the year by British Airways cabin crew, encouraged by the infamous Unite trade union leader, "Red" Len McCluskey.  This winter alone, we have seen strikes over Christmas by workers for Northern Rail (that left only 20% of their services running during the busiest periods), railway strikes in Wales, and London Underground services shut down on Boxing Day by striking workers. 

Yet it is 2011 that the unions see as the year in which to usher in another Winter of Discontent.  Violent strikes and riots are being threatened by labor union leaders, and British Airways workers are planning on more strikes in the new year, despite the current chaos at Heathrow and Gatwick that has ruined the Christmas season for many people.  Apparently the union bosses' compassion does not include those outside their militant ranks.

Even the Royal Wedding, an event that will revive Britain's prestige and could boost Britain's failing economy by billions, could be hijacked by socialist trade unions in order to maximize disruption in the capital -- all to achieve hard-left political aims.  If the Royal Wedding goes poorly, it could cost Britain billions and make our nation a mockery on the international stage.  Needless to say, the Trotskyites who infect the British labor unions are not the least bit interested in all that.

Americans should look at what is going on in Britain and see their future.  Barack Obama makes Gordon Brown look like Margaret Thatcher when it comes to treatment of trade unions.  In April 2010, Obama told the SEIU that he was a "pro-union guy" and told the public, "[Y]ou've got to be appreciative of what unions have done."  Nationalization of industry always benefits unions, as do Obama's spending packages that have always been a source of pork for the unions -- with such funding looking set to continue.  Joe Biden's assurance to the unions only a few months ago that "we still need you" looks like an accurate statement of where the power lies, and whom future Democrat policies will benefit.

Yet this is not just about spending.  As has been shown in Britain time and time again, and in New York just recently, left-wing policies do not just spend money on unions, but they also hand them power -- power that unions will use with devastating consequences.

As spending cuts begin to trickle through in both Britain and America in 2011, the unions will use the power that our well-meaning left-wing friends have spent years handing to them, and they will use it to bring our nations to their knees.  While America is not yet in the dire unionized state that Britain is in, if the American public allows Obama's sycophantic fawning over the unions to continue, then Britain's ongoing civil war with the hard-left trade unions will also be America's war before long. 

Adam Shaw is a British-born conservative writer.  His blog is The Anglo-American Debate.  Follow him on Twitter: @ACShaw.


[i] For a comprehensive account of the subject, see C Berlinski, "There is No Alternative": Why Margaret Thatcher Matters (New York: Basic Books, 2008).