I used to love Amazon.com. After a book group meeting I’d run home and order a used copy of the next book we were reading, sometimes paying only $1.00 (plus shipping) for a “lightly worn” paperback. I even bought a CD player and cordless phones from the online retailer. Amazon introduced me to online shopping and I thought I’d never have to enter a mall again in my life.
But this summer Amazon threatened to declare war on the great (and economically struggling) state of California, and I’m pissed off. By refusing to collect California sales taxes on purchases from our state, Amazon wanted to be a freeloader of local government services while it rakes in millions of dollars from California residents.
Where would Amazon.com be if the state and local governments didn’t maintain the streets and highways that UPS and U.S. Postal Service trucks drive on to deliver those little Amazon cardboard packages?
I grew up on the western edge of South Central, near Century Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue. My block was full of local government workers—sanitation, probation, school district. I don’t know if the private-sector folks were unionized, but their wages were competitive enough to allow them to buy houses in the area, a scenario made possible by the standards set by unions that, from my perspective, were becoming mainstream. Part of that standard was hiring blacks as a matter of course.
It hardly needs to be said that today’s focused attack by the Right on unions all over the country is an attack on the working and middle classes. Public employee unions are the big target now because the private sector unions have frankly become too puny over the last generation to pose much of a threat any more to the corporate powers that be, which have expanded as rapidly—more rapidly, actually– as unions have dwindled.
The right-wing has never been happy with the National Labor Relations Board’s mission of safeguarding employees’ rights. But in the past year, there has been a full-scale attack on this commitment, in the wake of NLRB decisions to charge Boeing with unfair labor practices and its rulings in other key cases. The Senate has refused to confirm new members to the board, forcing the President to make recess appointments to keep it functioning. Now the attack on the NLRB has reached a fever pitch, as the powerful Club for Growth has made defunding the board a “key vote” test for lawmakers.