“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 ….”
– Joseph Heller (Catch-22)
Anyone who has read Joseph Heller’s classic Catch-22, regarding modern bureaucratization and commercialization and their effects on human beings facing their absurd results, can’t help but be sympathetic with the plight of Yossarian. Sure, Yossarian is paranoid. But that doesn’t mean they really weren’t out to get him.
So, with the new GOP majority if the House of Representatives, should the Labor Movement be just as paranoid? And if so, aren’t They really out to get us?
It’s been rumored for some time that Right Wing forces have been planning a legislative agenda to undermine unions and working people in general. One prong entails allowing state governments to file bankruptcy petitions to do away with negotiated union contracts.
Should working people be paranoid?
In Ohio, as reported in the New York Times, newly elected Governor Kasich
appears to be planning the most comprehensive assault against unions. He is proposing to take away the right of 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers to unionize. He also wants to ban strikes by teachers, much the way some states bar strikes by the police and firefighters.
“If they want to strike, they should be fired,” Mr. Kasich said in a speech. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”
Mr. Kasich also wants to eliminate a requirement that the state pay union-scale wages to construction workers on public contracts, even if the contractors are nonunion. In addition, he would like to ban the use of binding arbitration to settle disputes between the state and unions representing government employees.
Should public employees in Ohio be paranoid?
Forget about this attack on working people as just being a ploy to paint unions as scapegoats. After all, as one commenter has noted:
Public employees have jobs like everyone else. The right of workers to unionize should be a fundamental one. No one is claiming that unions are perfect; but if we’re going to start destroying imperfect things, the statehouse would be a more beneficial place to start than the union hall. It’s one thing to discourage firefighters from striking-something that could immediately lead to people’s deaths. It’s quite another to threaten to fire every teacher in Ohio because they used the means available to them to ask for better working conditions. It’s not like they can depend on the good will of John Kasich to not screw them.
The real crux of the Right Wing agenda against working people and unions is to conquer and divide working people against each other, in order to make the erosion of wages and benefits of all workers, public and private, palatable to the American public.
So: municipalities and states that entered into pension and benefit agreements with their employees, and then, through horrifically poor financial planning combined with the overall collapse of the global economy due to Wall Street’s insatiable appetite for handing out subprime loans, found themselves unable to honor those agreements. This means that public sector unions themselves-not the elected officials who f[ ] up the states’ finances-are bad. Therefore, private sector union workers who are natural allies of public sector unions should turn against them, until they are destroyed. This will benefit you, common working man. We promise!
Is it really just paranoia?
In Catch-22, Yossarian ultimately finds out that the catch doesn’t really exist. But since everyone believes it does, and our leaders say it does, everyone acts as if the catch is a reality. As another prophet of paranoia, Thomas Pynchon, noted in Gravity’s Rainbow, “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”
So, it bears keeping in mind what underlies the legislative efforts against working people, their unions and our communities.
Because they really are out to get us!