Monday, December 3, 2007

What were once vices are now habits

Southeastern CT, where I live, has been evolving in terms of how livelihoods are made and who makes those livelihoods for close to two decades. Since the end of the Cold War, this area, the home of the US Navy's submarine force, and all the ancillary industries (and math and science) that support it, has shifted. Electric Boat, one of the two shipyards in the USA that builds nuclear submarines has gone from the employer of tens of thousands, producing two submarines a year, to an employer of thousands and is now on its way back up in workforce size. I imagine in light of folks like EB, like Pfizer and United Nuclear, the region was considered as tech-driven industrial.

And then the Cold War ended and a lot of things changed to include the employment situation. The Eighties, with the gospel of Greed is Good, ended with a large bang (actually, more like a thud) rather than a whimper, and when I and my family got here in the late fall of 1991 from Germany, it was already the winter of many peoples' discontent. Not that long afterwards, it had seemingly gotten very dark, in terms of housing starts, bank failures, home foreclosures, unemployment claims, etc, but it got brighter as one of the Native American tribes opened a casino that became an economic engine beyond even its founders' wildest imaginations. That was about a decade and half (and maybe a skoosh more) or so ago.

It's been interesting in recent months to watch as those running this casino operation engage in a battle for the hearts and minds (and wallets) of those whom they have hired, by the thousands, to be the minimum-wage, but there's always tips and great benefits, work force as the employees fought to either hold on to what they have or to regain what they feel they once had.
The threat of unionization moved a step closer last week, when some category of dealers (I don't know which ones and don't understand enough about casinos to grasp their importance) voted to authorize a local of the United Auto Workers, UAW, to represent them in future negotiations.

The casino operators argued and will now (probably) argue perhaps all the way to the US Supreme Court that they are a sovereign nation and the authorization of such a vote by the National Labor Relations Board is/was meddling in their internal affairs and a violation of their sovereignty. I knew an Army Colonel years ago who counseled me that 'you only have those rights you are prepared and willing to defend. No more and no less.' Thus, I'm not sure how a sovereign nation inside one of the Fifty States intends to press its claim and succeed, but I imagine it'll be interesting to watch and, hopefully. to learn from.

What was intriguing was a letter in a local newspaper yesterday from someone who wrote that he grew up in Detroit in the Seventies, and intimating that all, or nearly all, of Detroit's Fall from Urban Grace, was the responsibility of the UAW. Corporate greed, shareholder avarice, a fundamental shift in how the USA (and the world) built and bought automobiles did not, according to his letter, have anything to do with where Detroit is at this moment. I flashed immediately on a Bob Dylan lyric, "It's sundown for the union and what's made in the USA. Sure was a good idea 'til greed got in the way."
We stab it with our steely knives-but we just can't kill the beast.
-bill kenny


Rabbi Arian said...

I find the Mashantucket claim preposterous on its face. I accept the idea that Indian reservations are exempted from state regulations like zoning, no smoking, and so on.

But they are in essence claiming that they are not part of the United States.

Fine. Put up a border crossing point and let everyone going into or out of the reservation show a passport and have ICE check their vehicle. Let them pay customs duty on whatever they buy at Foxwoods over the standard once-in-30-days exemption.

Happy workers don't want unions. It's no accident that this is happening at Foxwoods rather than Mohegan Sun, in my opinion.

dweeb said...

I, too, wonder how much of the turbulence at Foxwoods the management have created.

I think you're right in terms of when people tend to look for solutions.

The contrast to Mohegan Sun is 100% spot-on and hard to ignore.