SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 25, 2014

A look at what others are saying

The following are excerpts from papers across New England:

There was power in a union.

Two snapshots of the labor movement in America, taken a century apart, paint starkly contrasting pictures:

In 1913, labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill wrote “There is Power in a Union,” a song telling of a way to have “freedom from wage slavery.” Earlier this month, workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., rejected a proposal to join the United Auto Workers.

Each, in its way, was a symbol of the times.

What, one might reasonably ask, is such a big deal about a single vote at a single auto plant?

Here’s what: VW not only didn’t oppose the bid to organize the workforce, it effectively supported it.

And yet, workers turned back the proposal, 712-626.

What a difference a century makes. Or a few decades.

We well remember when the UAW had north of 1.5 million members. Today, its rolls add up to a mere 400,000.

Generations of American schoolchildren have learned the history of the labor movement in America. They’ve been taught of the seminal figures such as Samuel Gompers, the immigrant New York cigar maker who would go on to become the first president of the American Federation of Labor. They’d learn of the International Workers of the World, the early-20th century union known as the Wobblies. They’d learn about the growth of private-sector unions throughout much of the 1900s and their decline in more recent decades.

If the UAW couldn’t succeed in Chattanooga, it’s hard to see how the once-mighty union will be able to stage a successful campaign anywhere. The UAW held all the cards but still managed to lose the game.

Wobbly, indeed.

— The Republican of Springfield

Did you cringe at the news Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, is looking to take over Time Warner, the nation’s second-largest cable provider?

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