(The usual disclaimer: This column appears here a week after its newspaper release to keep the syndicator happy)
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 14, 2012
THE MYTH OF THE TEAM
BY BOB FRANKEN
Here's a tip for the independent thinker who is ostracized for not being a “team player.” Simply ask, “What's the team doing for me?” True, it is subversive, but it is often a really good question. How sad.
This is a cliché that dates at least as far back as Aesop: “United we stand, divided we fall.” Unfortunately, the concept of the United States as a united country is becoming a fable. The reality is that we have evolved into an adversarial society, increasingly separated by bitter distrust and hostility. It's red vs. blue, producers vs. consumers, the legal system vs. justice, banks vs. the world, rich vs. everyone else, you name the institution. And, yes, that would include those of us in media, where itthe bottom line over journalism.
This absence of teamwork certainly defines the workplace, where all too often the lust for profits unleashes the worst in predatory bosses who take every opportunity to gut the wages, benefits, security and dignity of their employees. They have been enabled by the demise of organized labor. That's why they have spent so much time and effort destroying the unions, helped at every turn by their Republican Party handmaidens.
Once again, their unholy alliance has achieved a huge victory for greed by sabotaging unions. Michigan's Legislature and GOP Gov. Rick Snyder have teamed up to, with little warning, jam an odious bill through the Republican-controlled legislature that suddenly creates another right-to-work state, one of 24. All of them sap the financial strength of the labor movement by no longer requiring nonmembers to pay dues in organized shops even when they benefit from the contracts that the local negotiated with management.
What is remarkable in this case is that Michigan is where the movement got traction. The United Auto Workers fought for and won agreements that helped create a middle class and allowed it to flourish. Now, as the unions disintegrate in the U.S., so does the middle class. We see the results in so many ways, not the least of which is the disgraceful financial inequality that is such a national blight.
Following their most recent election embarrassment, GOP leaders started soul searching. That didn't just mean trying to determine whether they had one, but to revise their image as a symbol of cruel social policies and the selfish interests of the super-wealthy. Maybe it's all lip service, because Michigan proves once again this is still the Banana Republican party.
Gov. Snyder chants the usual mantra, that the new laws will attract jobs, to which there is the usual response: What kind? We know the answer: low-paying ones So when he says, “This isn't about us versus them,” he's blowing smoke. Of course it is.
It's the same dichotomy that characterizes the fiscal-cliff negotiations, the latest crisis to preoccupy Washington. On one side, you have a Democratic president who seems determined to show Republicans who's boss by rubbing their noses in it, insisting on higher tax rates for the well-off. On the other, you have the opposition demanding deep cuts in health and welfare programs. One would think that they would be bound by a common interest in saving the country from financial pain and embarrassment as opposed to their addiction to gamesmanship. Maybe they will cobble something together, but we have gotten so used to their intransigence that everyone is preparing for the possibility that no compromise can be achieved by the New Year's deadline. And if there is one, it could very well just gloss over the continuing decay of the economy and our nation's well-being.
We need a return to honest cooperation. It is essential if we want to thrive. So when one of us asks “What is the team doing for me?” we'll have a good answer.
© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.