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Ron Kaye: Welcome to the China Century

September 02, 2011|By Ron Kaye

Longtime Los Angeles Teachers Union leader A.J. Duffy has changed his mind. He’s fought against charter schools, but now he’s starting his own; he’s protected tenure but now wants it easier to fire bad teachers, even to limit the prolonged dismissal process to just 10 days.

The times they really are a-changin’ — something that is long overdue.

Labor Day weekend — the traditional end of summer, the start of the fall football season, a time for at least a moment’s reflection on America’s working men and women, and those who are desperate to find work.

The bedrock foundation of the modern labor movement was the demand for “more” — and not just more money.

“What does labor want? We want more school houses and less jails. More books and less guns. More learning and less vice. More leisure and less greed. More justice and less revenge. We want more opportunities to cultivate our better natures.”


That was the philosophy that Samuel Gompers built the American Federation of Labor on more than a century ago, a movement that reached its peak shortly after the end of World War II when more than one in three workers was a member of a union.

Today, it’s barely one in 10, one in 15 in the private sector, and public sector unions have become a battleground over the cost of pensions and salaries gained from the coziness between unions and the politicians they help elect, relationships that could never exist between labor and management in the business world.

From our city halls to Sacramento, to Washington, the political cry is the same. “Jobs, jobs, jobs,” our elected leaders of every stripe chant in unison, even as they are in a stalemate over whether raising taxes for public works projects or cutting taxes to free up capital for investment will do more to create new jobs.

The truth is nearly $1 trillion in federal stimulus money did not generate jobs as fast as they were disappearing, in great part because government agencies swallowed up much of the money to protect their jobs.

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