For years, this country has been on a warpath against unions. The agitation starts from the top down, with big business infuriated with the strides labor made when unions were strong. Unions have been weakened for decades, but the big push came during the Reagan administration.
I've done plenty of unskilled labor in my lifetime; it never ceased to amaze me how many of fellow employees were bitterly anti-union. About the best answer I could ever get was: "my dad hated unions, and so do I."
That war is over. The general public has been indoctrinated with right-wing definitions of unions that make them about as popular as "liberal." Those few unions that remain seem to be too powerful to kill, such as millionaire athletes, government workers, or the Teamsters.
Having completed this mission, the next step coming is worker benefits. I don't sense the terror from the middle class one might expect, knowing they are directly in the sights of the Republican political machine.
Worker benefits cut into profits. Profits disproportionately reward the management elite. This trend has been gathering speed tremendously. Even Clinton's boom economy couldn't stop it -- CEO and board member pay exploded faster than non-management, reportedly because it was management and not an exploding economy responsible for the influx of cash.
Then the crash hit. If you weren't management, you were fired or lost benefits. In the last 6 years, I've had 1 or 2 raises. Less than inflation. And I'm a "technical" worker; I know I've been treated a little better than a lot of others.
Well, I'm part of spin-off now, and the first thing the new company killed was a pension. Most folks won't feel too sorry for me; most companies have killed pensions a long time ago. I just found out our old parent company has started the process of killing their pension in 5 years.
Even IBM, giant among giants, converted their traditional pension to "portable", which is code for "cheaper." Companies across the nation have been pressuring Congress to relieve them of their pension funding responsibilities. The argument goes something like this: These pension payments are killing us. Our pension fund puts too much pressure on us to fully fund in these bad times. Let US decide how little we fund them while times are rough, and when things improve, we'll catch it right up.
What happens next is more inevitable than the Iraq disaster. They'll slide for a few years, their obligation grows greater, and they go back to Congress to reduce pension benefits across the board. Defund them, basically. "This obligation has gotten far worse than we ever imagined! Crisis! Please let us exclude, reduce, and deny!!"
Your only hope will be a Democratic Congress and President, which means you had better start planning on working until they pull your cold, dead fingers off the factory equipment.