The column run by Jojo Robles titled “The death of labor” in The Manila Times (Lowdown, 5/2/18) caught my attention and probably others with interest. Catchy, relevant, timely, and worth reading over a cup of coffee, his column was written the following day after the “Labor Day” observance last May 1.
As rejoinder I was inspired to write my column title in an interrogative mode in the manner Kit Tatad does once in a while in his “First Things First” column. A Metro Manila-based Gigmotonian, Kit is one of my “lodis”, you know.
The reason is pure and simple. Death by any definition in all times and climes is negative, bad if not worse situation.
Says Robles with clarity and conviction: “The sad truth is that traditional organized organized labor movements such as they are today, have long ago alienated their constituencies and, by doing so, have greatly reduced their own influence and relevance. And there seems little that they can do anymore to win back the trust of the workers for whom they are supposed to exist.”
Waxing historically nostalgic, Robles added: “There was a time, not so long ago, when labor unions and their federations were forces to reckon with in Philippine society. That was when Labor Day rallies were the workers’ equivalent of high religious holidays, opportunities to show how their workplace muscle had been easily and seamlessly transformed into political strength.
“Big investors feared them, bending over backwards to make concessions to unions and the umbrella groups that multiplied their power. Politicians courted labor groups like they were influential sectarian sectarian organizations, which in a sense they were, because they regularly delivered the vote,”he said.
“Administrations had to come up with annual May Day gifts to appease labor groups. The underground Left co-opted the more radical of the unions, converting them into fertile grounds for rebel recruitment and using them to spread its extremist ideology,” he added.
But then, here comes the rub: “Then organized labor lost its way. It stopped representing the workers and their interests. Labor leaders began to take their power too seriously, including the power to shut down business through strikes and other such disruptive actions. Others of a more radical bent went directly from labor to politics, especially the extreme leftist kind that started to conflate government policy with the interest of the workers, no matter how tenuous the connection,” he said. (To be continued).