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Bob Herbert begins, "Lynda Hiller teared up. 'We're struggling real bad,' she said, 'and it's getting harder every day.' A handful of people were sitting around a dining room table in a row house in North Philadelphia on Wednesday, talking about the problems facing working people in America."

Portrait, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, 06/15/09. (photo: NYT)
Portrait, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, 06/15/09. (photo: NYT)

Absorbing the Pain

By Bob Herbert, The New York Times

26 February 11

Lynda Hiller teared up. "We're struggling real bad," she said, "and it's getting harder every day."

A handful of people were sitting around a dining room table in a row house in North Philadelphia on Wednesday, talking about the problems facing working people in America. The setting outside the house on West Harold Street was grim. The remnants of a snowstorm lined the curbs and a number of people, obviously down on their luck, were moving about the struggling neighborhood. Some were panhandling.

The small gathering had been arranged by a group called Working America, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, but the people at the meeting did not belong to unions. They were just there to talk in an atmosphere of mutual support.

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-18 # Mary Van 2011-02-26 11:39
There are ordinary people who believe in Unions and their rights, but think they should only be allowed in private enterprise. We the taxpayers pay public empluyees but have no bargaining rights or forum to stand for us except politicians who are notoriously paid by those other than their constituents.
+11 # Sarah 2011-02-27 00:28
The argument that unions should only be allowed in private business is a specious argument. It's just a propaganda line that is repeated over and over again in the corporate media, until people start regarding it as gospel truth. Union busting, starting with Ronald Reagan, decimated the private sector unions. About 32% of the hourly workforce was unionized in 1980, equally in the private and public sector. By 1985, Reagan had appointed 60% of the federal judges and most were like Clarence Thomas--little judicial experience and very right wing. These judges allowed so much union busting that by 1988, the unions in the private sector had lost more than 1/2 their members. Now very little of the private sector is unionized, so they are going after the public sector. As the percentage of unionized workers in the workforce fell, wages, benefits and safety in working fell for ALL workers. If unions were the problem, then there would be no problem because so many fewer working people are protected by unions. Obviously, all of the problems for the average person--the decline in wages,the rise in unemployment, the increased taxes on the middle class and working poor are due to something other than unions because these problems have increased in size as the unions have decreased in size.
+24 # DesignCreature 2011-02-26 14:03
why is it those telling to tighten our belts are expanding theirs?
+23 # DPM 2011-02-26 14:15
That's right! Why should public employees, the people that work for us, expect to lead decent lives? Maybe they would work even harder if they were treated like cattle!
See, this is the problem. MV is certainly entitled to her opinion, but the people "in charge" either have us fighting amongst ourselves or entertained by some Roman Circus type spectacles to the point that many can't form really objective opinions.
CBS News gave more coverage to Charley Sheen, last night, than nationwide rallies planned for today or the situation in Wisconsin. HLN spends more time talking about Lindsey Lohan than the budget problem. All pablum for the masses.
+14 # X Dane 2011-02-26 17:48
DPM. They are trying their best to pull the wool over our eyes, with stupid mindless, NON-NEWS. Unfortunately it works on a lot; but thank heaven there are people, who do not fall for it. I rarely watch "the nightly news" We know it is big corporation owned, and basically worthless propaganda.
+16 # sirsteve 2011-02-26 17:57
The right wing thugs (a.k.a. Tea partiers, Kochs. Fox, Beck, etc.) are doing everything possible to divide the middle class. No amount of $ are too great, no lies are big enough, no political payoff too large to stop them in their mission to accumulate more $, power and their desire to have a nation of serfs and peons.
+9 # Lingolayne 2011-02-27 02:33
You're absolutely right Sir...these lunatic greedy bastards are like drug addicts...addic ted to the almighty dollar. They just can't get enough... However, they're not trying to divide the middle class, they're trying to eliminate the middle class...I just don't understand why and what they have to gain. Ask any Economist, The basis of Capitalism just doesn't work without a middle class...
+12 # Linda 2011-02-26 20:49
I think its past time we took to the streets in every city and state in masses.
If we don't then we can't cry about the horrible state this country is in thanks to Republican's and some Dems who serve Big Corp and the industrialised military complex.
+2 # Anagnorisis 2011-02-27 01:27
This is the real story we don't often read. As Mr. Herbert suggests, picayune advantages of worker over worker are risible to the overseers who see all as an amorphous mass, unionization a bothersome mosquito. State and federal safety nets are hollow promises in large part lest one diligently exploit the system, which is of course under sway of those industrial-poli tical organizations that control in ulterior cronyism. We may not hit rock-bottom but we can see the craggy shards.
+8 # franselr 2011-02-27 02:08
The Big Corporations take jobs overseas where labor pay, rights, and protections are barely above subsistence. They are trying to duplicate conditions in the USA. In Big Corp's perfect world, labor should return to slavery to be competitive with overseas labor.
+7 # jo 2011-02-27 09:24
The media is run by 7 very powerful people. They have interests with war and the military industrial complex. Insurance Companies and Lawyers all fit well within the equation as well. Put politicians in the mix with pockets open for money to get re-elected plus the Supreme Court stating now the coporations are deemed "American Citizens" and you have the average person on the street being assaulted daily by the real constituents of government . Government is not by and for the American People anymore, these big boys you will never see because they are insulated and they cause media to distract everyone from the real crooks and vilify the unions and thereby destroying the middle class , making everyone's life style get worse and worse... Exxon Mobil made over 19 billion in profits last year and paid ZERO taxes.

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