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Every semester I ask my freshmen students at the state university where I teach to write a brief paragraph about who they are and how they define their families in terms of anthropological and sociological constructs of "race," ethnicity and socioeconomic class. What I find interesting, and also troubling, is that almost all of them when selecting a "class" label say they are "middle class." Some use modifiers like upper-middle, or middle-middle or lower-middle, but it is rare to find any that use the term "working class," though the majority are only first or second generation attending college, and most come from families where the parents are neither business owners nor management—nor are they well off financially.  

When we discuss "social class" few have ever heard of either Karl Marx, or Weber (status), except those who are exchange students from Eastern Europe. One semester I had a student ask me "which one of the Marx brothers was Karl?" He wasn't joking.
None can define "means of production and distribution." None have ever been able to discuss concepts like "right to work states" and few have parents that are union members.  

I wish that Bertell Ollman’s board game "Class Struggle" was still around.

Class Struggle

I've come to believe that this "fuzzy middle" myth that has no real meaning in relationship to power hierarchies or dynamics is probably one of our greatest obstacles against working for meaningful change and redistribution of wealth. In the context of social stratification here in the United States, the categories of upper, middle and lower class are devoid of links to actual labor but seem to only reflect consumerist ideals. Class and status have become muddled. You are what you consume or drive.

To make matters more difficult, "race" has deeply embedded class connotations that are almost caste-like. So when the term "worker" is used along with code like "blue collar" to describe a sector of the population we almost automatically visualize "white worker," excluding those blacks, latinos, native americans and asians who are a large part of the U.S. labor force. Whereas when we say "poor" or "welfare" images of blacks and browns come to mind. "Immigrant" is the dog whistle for Mexican or "illegal" and few think of agricultural workers as foundational to our survival. A far cry from the days when we on the left supported the organizing struggles of the United Farm Workers.

Politicians from both parties invoke "Main Street" daily in an appeal to voters from this fuzzy middle. Only since the revolt in Wisconsin have we begun anew to frequently employ rhetoric invoking and defending the rights of "workers" to organize and protect their labor.

Who is a worker?  

Sociologist Michael Schwalbe, in his short Primer on Class Struggle, defines workers as:

everyone who earns a wage or a salary and does not derive wealth from controlling the labor of others. By this definition, most of us are workers, though some are more privileged than others. This definition also implies that whenever we resist the creation and enforcement of laws that give capitalists more power to exploit people and the environment, we are engaged in class struggle, whether we call it that or not.

I often wonder if we are still in the grips of the chilling effect of the McCarthy era—where "labor" and "worker" and "working class" as terms became symbolic of communism and socialism and the left and were to be stamped out of the American psyche.

We still have 22 states in the U.S. that are defined as "Right to Work" states—an oxymoron if there ever was one. The AFL-CIO has defined this as "The Right to Work for Less."

To set the record (and the name) straight, right to work for less doesn’t guarantee any rights. In fact, by weakening unions and collective bargaining, it destroys the best job security protection that exists: the union contract. Meanwhile, it allows workers to pay nothing and get all the benefits of union membership. Right to work laws say unions must represent all eligible employees, whether they pay dues or not. This forces unions to use their time and members’ dues money to provide union benefits to free riders who are not willing to pay their fair share.

Right to work laws lower wages for everyone. The average worker in a right to work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states ($35,500 compared with $30,167). Weekly wages are $72 greater in free-bargaining states than in right to work states ($621 versus $549). Working families in states without right to work laws have higher wages and benefit from healthier tax bases that improve their quality of life.

Unions and union movements which provided the impetus for so much of our socioeconomic support network were repressed, shoved and pushed aside in the rush to the middle and a dream of white collars.  

It is the rare high school curricula that teaches U.S. labor history. Even less understood are the contradictions within that history which involve the tangle of "race." Perhaps, because I was a member of several "unity movements" of people of color during the 60s and 70s, and knew some of the organizers of other groups, I realize that we still have more work to do on that front.  

Case in point: the history of The League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM).

Since its publication in 1975, Detroit: I Do Mind Dying has been widely recognized as one of the most important books on the black liberation movement and labor struggles in the United States.

Detroit: I Do Mind Dying tells the remarkable story of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, based in Detroit, and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, two of the most important political organizations of the 1960s and 1970s.

A. Muhammad Ahmad provides a similar historical analysis online in The League of Revolutionary Black Workers: A Historical Study:

Black workers involvement in large numbers began during the first imperialist war, when there was a shortage of laborers and Detroit was becoming the center of the auto industry. In 1910, there were only 569 Blacks out of 105,759 auto workers. During the war, thousands of southerners, both Black and white migrated to Detroit in search of work, By 1930, there were 25,895 Blacks among the industry's 640.474 workers.

The southern whites who migrated to Detroit brought with them racist attitudes. The large Polish minority who made up a large proportion of the work force in the auto plants began to display the same prejudice against Black workers after the southerners came. The auto industry was one of the last major industries in the United states to hire large numbers of Black workers. Blacks were excluded from regular jobs in most auto plants. Until 1935 only the Ford River Rouge plant hired Black workers in large numbers, Black workers who did work in auto plants were confined to janitorial work or to the unpleasant back-breaking foundry jobs that white men did not want. Except in the Rouge plant, they were barred from skilled work.

One of the films from the 70s I suggest my students screen for discussion is Blue Collar directed by Paul Schrader, starring Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto.

Some unions have stepped up to the challenge, especially those representing large numbers of people of color and women, workers who were ignored for many years by mainstream unions. Among them are groups like Domestic Workers United, which is part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Domestic Workers United
Domestic Workers United was founded in 2000, by members of Kalayaan/Women Workers Project of CAAAV, in collaboration with Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers. Filipina domestic workers who are members of CAAAV's Women Workers Project began outreach to domestic workers from the Caribbean and Latin America in 1999, after having done two years of advocacy for individual domestic workers who were underpaid or abused by their employers, because they saw the need for industry standards and a voice for all domestic workers, particularly those who were not being organized. Early on, Andolan members and Women Workers Project members supported one another's work, and worked together to build DWU as collaborative project to build the power of the domestic workers movement. Today, DWU organizes workers from the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America, and coordinates with the other domestic workers organizations through the NY.

While we are on the subject of domestic workers-just in time for the opening of "The Help", which I'll be discussing criticisms of next week-we should all take the time to support the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights:

The role of gender, and its intersections with race, ethnicity and class in the workplace, has often been described as the "pink collar" sector.

A pink-collar worker is employed in a job that is stereotypically considered to be women's work. The term distinguishes these jobs from the blue-collar worker, a worker in manual labor, and the white-collar worker, a professional or educated worker in largely office positions. Pink-collar jobs usually pay a significantly smaller amount of money than blue-collar or white-collar jobs

Ironically many of the aspirants to white collardom would do better financially and in terms of benefits if they joined with the colored-collar sectors that are unionized. On a private college campus near me, the maintenance staff is union-SEIU 1199-with job protection, and the skilled tech staff are not-garnering lower pay and less job security.

The creation of the fuzzy middle class, eschewing manual labor and unions and pursuing the suburbia of places like Levittown, was made possible by the GI Bill after WWII and took place during the rise of the Cold War. That Cold War which posited a battle between free market capitalism and "godless" communism resulted in witch hunts here at home and the ultimate rise of the global hegemony of economic inequity, with the harsh repression of any opposing developing states.

We are now faced with the unraveling of the mythology created to siphon off solidarity with class warfare and must embrace what was spurned in pursuit of picket fences and two-car garages. In the process, the moniker of "working class" should become our badge of courage—as long as we also fight to make that class a rainbow coalition.  

I was elated to see the launch of Daily Kos Labor. I am a union member, albeit of one (the UFT) whose members have more privilege than many, and which has too often fallen into the snares and lures set by elites.  

I will continue to identify with and work in coalition with factory workers, domestics, agricultural field workers and enforced workers who are incarcerated.  

I'm not fuzzy middle. I'm working class—and proud of it.


Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Progressive Hippie, DKOMA, and Anti-Capitalist Chat.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for working class solidarity (167+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, MoDem, CT yanqui, dalfireplug, Domino14, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, Marjmar, dopper0189, Crashing Vor, a gilas girl, slksfca, DaNang65, KibbutzAmiad, ferment, Lightbulb, soothsayer99, lone1c, Azazello, We Won, Kitty, GeorgeXVIII, swampyankee, shanikka, marleycat, psychodrew, porchdog1961, politik, LokiMom, solliges, Wolf10, Mother Mags, dirtfarmer, One Pissed Off Liberal, Chacounne, TexasTom, gchaucer2, tardis10, David Kaib, redandblue, Cabbage Rabbit, joanbrooker, jhannon, Hugo Estrada, Keori, oysterface, stewarjt, bushondrugs, emal, caul, scribe, yellowdogsal, historys mysteries, HylasBrook, orson, Adept2u, ban nock, brae70, CarolinNJ, Ginger1, bythesea, blackinthebuilding, bluesteel, JoanMar, blue jersey mom, Zwoof, brooklynbadboy, zerone, ajr111240, Mebby, smartdemmg, smellybeast, gramofsam1, socalmonk, NYWheeler, Desert Rose, Deward Hastings, wave of change, capelza, The Hindsight Times, melvynny, jck, lamzdotes, klompendanser, doroma, RadioGirl, destructiveanachronism, Fogiv, Sychotic1, Tanya, sberel, JC from IA, Egalitare, cRedd, princss6, NY brit expat, allergywoman, Hedwig, seeta08, Grassroots Mom, implicate order, speitzer, kck, MrJayTee, OLinda, TexasLefty, catilinus, jessical, miasmo, squarewheel, GenXangster, TealTerror, schnecke21, movie buff, FrankAletha, strangedemocracy, evergreen2, Johnnythebandit, musicalhair, TimmyB, pinhead, Hyde Park Johnny, RJDixon74135, blindyone, bibble, Annalize5, belinda ridgewood, Bodhisatva, conlakappa, jeannew, Justina, JekyllnHyde, Odysseus, yaque, verso2, beforedawn, ItsaMathJoke, enhydra lutris, Candide08, ozsea1, citizen k, hopeful human, mali muso, grollen, sviscusi, burlydee, KayCeSF, sebastianguy99, sofia, FogCityJohn, Loonesta, tbirchard, Sylv, sephius1, SoCalJayhawk, hardart, Ana Thema, Ignacio Magaloni, etherealfire, Matt Z, FindingMyVoice, Free Jazz at High Noon, lol chikinburd, Kitsap River, i like bbq, Fiona West, Oh Mary Oh, Diogenes2008

    and struggle.

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:30:09 AM PDT

  •  any admins around? sen. sanders needs help (8+ / 0-)

    pardon my OT.

    his staff is having problems posting diary for our blogathon today. I sent email to a few. thought maybe someone might be here.

    Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:08:57 AM PDT

  •  Excellent essay. (30+ / 0-)

    With the picket fences ever further out of reach, perhaps we shall remember the other use for pickets.

    New video: Tramps and Millionaires. Satisfaction guaranteed. (Even shorter than the last one!)

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:09:32 AM PDT

  •  Why Working Class Baggers Really Hate Taxes (31+ / 0-)

    By claiming to be immune from federal taxation, Baggers lay bare their emotional disdain for a nation they see as increasingly foreign as the information age makes people in Mississippi and Tennessee aware of what goes on in New York and San Francisco.  And it cannot be a coincidence that teabaggery found its stride during the ascendency of a black man to the White House.  “I won’t pay your stinkin’ taxes” is just shorthand for “I’m not part of this country anymore.”

    Why Working Class Baggers Really Hate Taxes

    Waging a "War on Ignorance" ...

    by heycoachb on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:10:12 AM PDT

  •  It's all about teaching standards (27+ / 0-)

    The reason why students don't know much about labor history is that we don't make it a part of what we expect students to know.

    In addition, when we teach American history, we almost invariably start back in the Colonial period, and work our way forwards. As a result, the time period in which the labor movements really pick up steam--in the mid- to late-20th century--gets short shrift because it's near the end of the year already.

    A more enterprising history course would treat some of the major themes of society--economic development, civil rights, etc.--and track their evolution through the whole of US history. However, that requires a willingness to buck trends, and to trust that students will do the necessary work to pass the burdensome standards-based testing requirements imposed on American students today.

    •  agree. plus civics seems to have been lost (15+ / 0-)

      somewhere as well.  

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:16:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Again, it's the way the curriculum's developed (7+ / 0-)

        over the years.

        Civics has been detached from history, as it's now considered halfway between political science and history. As a result, it's always easy pickings when the budget axe comes a-swinging.

      •  I grew up in Detroit (20+ / 0-)

        during the 60's and went to Catholic school.  It was a liberal diocese then and we were taught labor history in American history and had very comprehensive civics classes.  I think partly because labor history is so closely tied to the immigration of large Catholic populations and the fact that we finally had a Catholic elected president.  They took duty and responsibility very seriously so voting was considered very important.  In the 70's when I was in high school, they wanted us to be active in the anti choice movement and were shocked when we refused to join in.

        My father was a plant manager at the Rouge complex and there many African American workers in his plant.  It was extremely difficult for them during the riots because the famously racist mayor of Dearborn, Hubbard, threatened to shoot first and ask questions later.  Those workers lived in Detroit, had to cross the fortified border to work and they had to have gas in their cars which was difficult to come by during the riot.  They must have been very brave.  I assume the company had a little talk with the mayor so that they could get their workers in and out safely.

        •  Beat me to it. (14+ / 0-)

          I was just thinking about posting about Catholic history and the labor movement. But hadn't yet put the comment together. Yours is great.

          I write the series Confessions of a Retail Worker here on DK. It documents my life in a non-unionized workplace.

          by Lightbulb on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:41:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  aw, thanks. (12+ / 0-)

            I majored in history was interested in the industrial revolution, labor history and the rise of feminism.  Everything is tied together and that's why it is important to study history, social studies in the broader sense.  But this revisionist crap just makes me crazy.

            •  It's worth a diary. (6+ / 0-)

              Not me though. Religion is like a third-rail on this website.

              I write the series Confessions of a Retail Worker here on DK. It documents my life in a non-unionized workplace.

              by Lightbulb on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:49:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I grew up a John XXXIII Catholic (12+ / 0-)

                in a liberal diocese.  I realized this is a very different experience form those Catholics who lived in conservative dioceses.  While to this day, I can't stand nuns and have left the Church due to their political campaigning with fundie Christian groups against women and the child sex abuse scandals in the Church, I remain a liberal Catholic at hear.  If I overlook the craziness and abuse of the nuns, I actually had a great education.  We could all read well, write well, do math well, understand algebra and had a comprehensive social studies education.  Even the science education was top notch.  We had comprehensive sex ed in jr. high, were taught how birth control work but of course it was a sin to have sex outside of marriage and to use birth control.  At least we had a clue.

                I was pretty well equipped academically for college and was taught how to get along with groups of people and how to respectfully disagree.  Something that seems sorely lacking in may people today.

            •  Learning civics and even history was diluted or (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Denise Oliver Velez

              even abandoned starting in the 60's when kids found those subjects "irrelevant." Yes, we listened to the progressive educators tell us that the kids no longer found them "interesting" so why study them.

              I remember reading may articles making this claim. Since the teachers couldn't keep the children involved, well, let's just teach them what they like. Didn't matter what the actually needed.

              There didn't seem to be any consideration on how to bring these subjects to life and make them relevant.

              And then the schools took on many of the things they should have learned at home such as how to behave. To respect your teacher.

              There are only so many school hours in a day. Teaching civics and history dribbled off the curb of a good education.

              Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

              by auapplemac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:51:55 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I remember the 67 riots (7+ / 0-)

          We lived in Dearborn Hgts on Gully St. My dad was and engineer at AAD and he told about the Nat. Guard on the borders of Dearborn and Detroit. I was 9 at the time, so I really did not understand how bad things were.

          •  I lived in Dearborn too (8+ / 0-)

            but in East Dearborn 1 block away from the Detroit border near Schaeffer and Tireman.  Our parish was half in Detroit half in Dearborn.  The neighborhood in Detroit that was really part of the Dearborn side before the riots, changed in just 2 years.  I think a lot of block busting was going on but the whites just fled.  We had a lot of new kids who were not Catholic attending our school because their parents didn't want to send them to the Detroit public school.  Basically, the only whites left on the Detroit side were cops, firefighters and city employees because Detroit had a residency rule.  Everyone else moved out.

            •  A few years later my family moved to (3+ / 0-)

              Livonia because of the schools in Dearborn Hgt

              •  My mother could never get my father to move (3+ / 0-)

                from Dearborn but we did move to the west side, near Cherry Hill and Gulley.

                •  I lived two blocks south of Cherry Hill (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  at gully and marshall. I bet your Dad and my Dad knew each other.

                  •  Probably (9+ / 0-)

                    My father spent 42 years at Ford.  He was the real American success story.  He grew up dirt poor in WV, a first generation American.  His father died when he was 14 in 1932.  My father was the only one in his family to go to college.  He worked in the CCC set up by Roosevelt's New Deal program.  That helped to support his mother.  He moved to Detroit in 1938 and started working at Ford.  He had deferments through WWII.  He went on to get his masters and a Ph.D. and put all six of his children through college.  I don't know how many people could accomplish all this now.  

                    •  Many no longer have the drive. It looks like the (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      only thing your father was "given" was a slot in the CCC. Everything else he worked for.

                      Obviously your father was smart - that helped, but he really did do it on his own.

                      While some people today want jobs, they don't want the work. It's a totally different mentality than your father's.

                      I'd tip my hat (if I ever wore one) off to your dad. It sounds a lot like my aunts and uncles who were also first gen and grew up dirt poor in a big city before and during the depression.

                      BTW: today when most people refer to middle class, etc, I think they are not only speaking about their income, but the way they live and bring up their kids. What's important to them.

                      It's a middle class mentality rather than an income or job reality.

                      Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

                      by auapplemac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:03:09 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I know his brother & sisters helped (0+ / 0-)

                        him and they were older than him.  He would live with one of them, work, then go to college til the money ran out.  Then he'd work again.  But the CCC program helped a lot.  They had a farm, which they lost, but not the house so I know they had a big garden.  I do know that before the unions, you had to pay someone to get a job in the auto plants and then bribe your foreman to keep it.  That changed during the war and then when Henry Ford died and Henry II got rid of Bennett and his goons, it cleaned up the job security problem a lot.  Then of course the UAW really made it about seniority.  Before the union, when they shut down for three weeks in August, it was unpaid.  The union did a tremendous amount of good.

                        •  As an uncle of mine was fond of saying, "That's (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          what family's for." It happened in my family, too. Those that had a little bit more, helped those that had less.

                          Unions should be credited with a lot of good, but we seldom hear that history.

                          What many remember today is things like "On the Waterfront" and the 50s and 60s when there was a lot of corruption reported.

                          A few years ago, when Philly was building a huge new convention center, many of the local unions were fighting each other for the right to be in charge of certain departments once the center was finished. Not good press.

                          Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

                          by auapplemac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:34:42 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

            •  My mother would not leave (7+ / 0-)

              and she and I are both still here. My father owned a bar in Detroit, and I bought a home 8 blocks from them.
              I am so fortunate to have been raised in this changing environment. While the white people were moving out, we gradually adjusted to it becoming an all black city. I believe it has made me a much better person than if I had moved to an all white suburb.
              I have raised two sons here. They have had both Catholic and public education, same as me. Their education was not nearly as strong as mine, but what they have lost academically, they have gained as well adjusted accepting people.
              Someone posted awhile back that whites so disliked living with blacks, they ruined their city over it, and that sticks with me strongly to this day.
              We love Detroit, and accept the good with the bad. My kids have had the best of both worlds, and I have been given a gift. I would not trade my life for any other, because the other would get the better end of the deal.

          •  I remember that both my mom and dad (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            evergreen2, Denise Oliver Velez

            Packed heat when they commuted into downtown Detroit in that awful summer of '67.

            My mom. Packing heat. Jesus H. Christ.

            I think that American labor/class history isn't taught in public schools because the plutocrats don't want an informed electorate. They might get, if you'll pardon the expression, uppity.

            “ Obama plays a dangerous game. The chessboard has taken on unforseen dimensions. ”

            by ozsea1 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 02:13:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Civics is required... (5+ / 0-)

        for graduation from high school in CT.  It's only a semester and most kids take it second half of senior year.  So the amount of actual learning that goes on is debatable :D

        Of course that's not representative but at least some areas are still making an effort to teach us kids something.

        •  I think it varies from town to town in CT (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          evergreen2, Denise Oliver Velez

          I did high school in CT back in the early '90s, and I can assure you civics was not a part of the curriculum back then. So either it was more recently added, or it might just be a requirement in your town's school district. In CT, there's very little state-level mandates on education requirements; different schools can require whatever they like, it seems, so long as there's four years of English, and maybe a year of US history.

          •  In the dark ages when I went to high school, we (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Denise Oliver Velez

            had Am. history every year. Actually started in middle school.

            Each term progressed to the next era. It was connected so we learned a lot. Civics was part of Am. history.

            We had English every year and also some form of math be it general or business math or higher levels for college entry.

            The kids I graduated with were mostly college bound, but quite a few went to Business Schools (the women) or a two year Jr. College (which became Community Colleges). Others went into the service or directly to a job.

            Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

            by auapplemac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:10:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Yes (11+ / 0-)

      My high school history classes (in the late seventies) didn't make it much past WWI, because we ran out of time.  That meant nothing on the depression, WWII, McCarthyism, or the civil rights struggles of the fifties and sixties.

      Aside from that, I think that they were kind of anxious to avoid covering material that would be likely to stir up controversy.  

      Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

      by TexasTom on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:31:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly! Social Studies/American History text (7+ / 0-)

      books are pretty detailed up to WWI & Wilson, then jump over the '20s and '30s  When there was so much social unrest and labor battles going on.

      Then on to a brief review of WWII & the books are done.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:01:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great work (28+ / 0-)

    the left has shied away from class struggle but the right hasn't. The result is that many people are losing a war they aren't aware is being fought because one side has grown silent. Both Gephart and Edwards tried to restart the communication battle, were are the next great leaders who will mobilize this message?

    I think it will have to happen at the state level, national parties are too dependent on big donors and lobbyist.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:10:44 AM PDT

  •  Bert Ollman was a colleague of mine... (17+ / 0-)

    in the 70's.  My daughter took his class in Marxism and said he spent the first third of the course talking about "Jesus the revolutionary."  He also assigned readings of the Gospel of Matthew.  His influence, and that of his students ("There is no middle class- there is the ruling class, and then everyone else"), plus Ferdinand Lundberg's book "The rich and the super-rich" led to my radicalization.

  •  Thanks, DOV. Great diary. (7+ / 0-)

    Wish I could join your class. But, barring that, I'm going to read the references you sited. Going to my local library page now.

  •  Race/Class/Gender (17+ / 0-)

    so wound up together with so little acknowledgment of the same

    I am a wirness to all you said here re challenges in both the classroom and the  world re these discussions

    Thanks as always for shining the light and furthering the conversation in the complicated ways it needs to be had

  •  Civics (7+ / 0-)

    used to be taught as part of Social Studies - not just history and government, but the connections and philosophies underlying our government.   I remember hearing about Locke and Hume in high school; didn't actually read them until college, but had a basic idea of what motivated the founding fathers.

    I know teachers would prefer to still teach that way, but far too much of the curriculum today is geared to meeting the assessment test standards.  Tests from corporations whose interest in the union movement is not great.

  •  If you grew up poor... (17+ / 0-)

    It's a badge of honor to claim you're "middle class" whether you really are or not. My parents both grew up quite poor. By the time I was old enough to have any clue about such things, they were better off, but still not very economically comfortable.

    (Incidentally, I must go off on a tangent here and mention that discussing their economic situation with either of my parents is absolutely impossible. Anything I ever say puts them both on the defensive, even if I'm actively trying to agree with them. I think it's their way of reminding me that I don't know anything about being poor like they do, and that I should be grateful to them for shielding me from that knowledge. Which I am, but I wish they wouldn't be so defensive about it.)

    In any case, by most measures, I'd say our family was working class. I'm careful not to say that around my parents (whom I don't see much anymore - they're in Philadelphia and I'm in Singapore). We lived in a neighborhood that was at least marginally middle class by the standards of my hometown of Manchester, NH. But - and here you should forget everything you see about Manchester on CNN every fourth February - in the eighties Manchester was quite poor overall. What passed for middle class there would have been recognized as working class in more affluent municipalities. I was acutely aware of this by the time I was in high school, because my neighborhood was on the border between the rich and poor parts of the city. I didn't fit in with kids from either side of that line (which was about three blocks from where I lived), but I did have friends from both sides, and the differences were palpable and then some. But as far as my parents were concerned, we were middle class, and we kids were never, ever to say otherwise.

    I went to a fairly elite small college, where most of the students were middle class or higher. Only then did I become fully cognizant of the subtle differences between working class and middle class, some of which I still can't really articulate because they're just too subtle. I can still remember my first week of freshman year, trying to settle into the community and make friends, but having no luck at it. All my new floormates came from very different places strung all over the country, from New York to California and many places in between; yet they all shared certain intangible experiences and traits that I just didn't have.

    This was one of those colleges where, when people hear the name, they tend to say "Oh, you're a bunch of socialists!" or some such. While it was extremely liberal overall, the student body was not as tolerant as it liked to believe, and those of us who had been raised in working-class households were acutely aware of that.

    So I understand why my parents disowned the "working class" label, but I also know what a price I had to pay a bit later in life for having been expected to pretend I belonged to a different class for so long. I'm not angry about it anymore, but I do wish my parents had been more honest with themselves about who and what we were, and I really wish my classmates at college had more exposure to and tolerance of the differences that come with having grown up that way.

    Certaines personnes disent qu'il y a une femme à blâmer, Mais je sais que c'est ma faute sacrément.

    by RamblinDave on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:19:38 AM PDT

    •  You are right, there are differences (5+ / 0-)

      My high school, which has later been turned into two high schools, used to have both working class, middle class, and a goodly helping of truly upper middle class bordering on the affluent.

      My parents were solidly middle class by the time I was in high school and so my younger siblings went to private schools with the affluent children (K-8)  those children dumped into our high school.  

      The obvious differences surround where one lives, what one drives, what one's parents drive.  The richer kids take a lot of stuff for granted and are shocked to find their reality isn't universal, and why shouldn't they be, everyone on television lives in housing affordable only to the affluent, with cars, clothes and toys that only the rich could afford.

      What is the most interesting thing I ever noticed is that the working class AND the affluent didn't have many books in their houses.  It was the middle class that had all the books.  I think it is  because it is the middle class that is in the red queens race, always running to stay in place.  Or maybe this was just coincidence  in my area.

      If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

      by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:11:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez

        ...the reading thing is regional, by profession...lots of things.  Have definitely experienced the well read working and upper classes.  

        ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

        by jessical on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:51:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Before I was 10 my dad drove a truck and bought (3+ / 0-)

          and sold bushel baskets and burlap bags. We were the working almost poor. And yet, we got the newspaper every day. Had a subscription to Life and Readers Digest. Not highbrow, but reading material.

          We also had a couple of shelves of books. Mostly novels from the Book of the Month Club.

          Again, not highbrow, but it did help make me a reader. When I worked in downtown Philly, I bought all three newspapers - one in the AM for my morning commute, the tabloid at lunch ( had great sports writers) and the evening newspaper for my after-work trip home.

          Now the city only has two papers and they're owned by the same company.

          Reading to your kids is great, but you also have to show them by the example of reading yourself.

          Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

          by auapplemac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:43:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting. (8+ / 0-)

    I wonder when "working class" became an undesirable term.

    There is a phenomenon in psychology where people tend to view themselves as above average on desired traits. One way researcher induce self-threats is to tell people that they are average. I wonder if people see "working class" as  too average.

    •  I still think it is linked to cold-war (15+ / 0-)

      propaganda and the attempted cleansing of libraries, along with the sanitizing of curricula.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:43:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And at about the same time, the almost complete (4+ / 0-)

        disappearance from television of the blue-collar types.
        About the only men I saw on TV who resembled my dad (all in reruns of course) were  The Honeymooners, Chester Riley (played by Willian Bendix) and strangely enough, Amos, 'n Andy.  The latter not phsically, of course, but in a class sense.  

        "If you love your Uncle Sam, bring 'em home; bring 'em home." - Pete Seeger

        by brae70 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:14:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Funny I just wrote above that you (4+ / 0-)

          don't see working class on television, only the upper middle to affluent.  Even "Friends" the twenty-somethings never had money problems in the middle of New York City.  Everyone on television lives a lifestyle that I couldn't afford on what is supposed to be my middle class pay (I make approximately twice the median).

          If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

          by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:13:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was really excited to hear Michele Obama say her (5+ / 0-)

            father was working class in a major speech during the campaign. I thought wow the language is going to start to change. Unfortunately I haven't heard the administration mention the word since.

            To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men~~ Abraham Lincoln

            by Tanya on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:06:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Roseanne stands out as one of the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sychotic1, princss6

            few successful television shows that respect the working class and are pretty real, imho.

            I wasn't a regular viewer when it was on, but I watch re-runs occasionally on late night cable and I am impressed by how much they got right.

            You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale; you have to understand geological time- Wallace Stegner

            by blindyone on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:38:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I used to watch it faithfully (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              and I was sooo disappointed when she decided to change to her name.  

              That was the only show I can remember where the house looked real, the clothes looked real and the problems were real instead of simply a plot device.

              If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

              by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 01:15:59 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  What about the Flintstones? (0+ / 0-)

          Married with Children?

          The Simpsons?

          •  I was responding to the coment about (0+ / 0-)

            the cold war era, specifically the 50's and early 60's.  The only one of those shows you mention that came from that time was The Flintstones, and that was a cartoon (taken from The Honeymooners).  It began to change in the late 60's when TV took a leftward turn to become "more relevant".  

            "If you love your Uncle Sam, bring 'em home; bring 'em home." - Pete Seeger

            by brae70 on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 06:03:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

              •  Herman was a nice guy, (0+ / 0-)

                but he didn't resemble my dad.  The generic white-collar man was far more common as the leading man on TV then.  OK, Desi Arnaz was another exception.  

                And I'm sure women have thier own feeling about how they were portrayed.  June Cleaver vacuming in pearls and high heels?  

                I mean no offense against any of these folks, they were fine actors.   They were just going with the flow of those days.   It was really the movements of the 60's that brought substantial change to TV.

                "If you love your Uncle Sam, bring 'em home; bring 'em home." - Pete Seeger

                by brae70 on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 07:34:50 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  First generation college grad. here. (9+ / 0-)

    Father was public sector union and mother was public sector employee- which made regularly eating well possible (among other things), since neither had a h.s. diploma.

    The education my brother and I enjoyed are cited by our parents as their "crowning achievement," though neither phrases it quite that way...

    ...and, most interestingly, both tend to describe themselves as middle-class or working-class...but their doing so depends completely upon to whom they are speaking.  Guess which is used when...

    On another note:

    "Immigrant" is the dog whistle for Mexican or "illegal" and few think of agricultural workers as foundational to our survival.

    Agreed, one thousand fold.  Few have any clue as to how vital all those "illegals" are to much of the economy AND their own ability to maintain wealth, i.e. keep more of their money in their own pockets.  When in discussions with people who lack this information and understanding, I've had a bit-o-fun listing various industries in which "illegals" are employed (exploited, really) as cheap labor...and I sardonically admit to enjoying the "fruits" of such labor and ask my convo- companion if s/he's ever done the same...  Depending upon the character of the individual, their eyes bug out or glaze over...which, depending upon my mood at the moment, suggests whether continuing the conversation is worth my time...

    Excellent diary.

    •  Would love to hear your discussion (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marjmar, evergreen2

      and have your list :)

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:08:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The discussions are contextual... (3+ / 0-) all depends...  But the message remains the same:  You, me, we are benefitting greatly from the exploited cheap you may want to consider your (often self-professed) "christian" conscience, just a bit, and either STFU about "kicking out all them damn illegals" trying to scrape by in this "land of opportunity" OR you can get on board with legislation such as the DREAM ACT.  etc. etc. etc.

        The quick and dirty list, as I usually present it:

        I so enjoy having my restaurant tables bussed, my hotel rooms cleaned, my lumber sawn, my roof re-shingled, my drywall hung, my meat packed, my fresh veggies picked, my neighbors gardens low costs.  Don't you also enjoy those things?

  •  This is the reality of work for millions of us (15+ / 0-)

    Retail jobs, restaurant jobs, McJobs, clerical work, low level health aides, part-time work....almost all of which do not carry health insurance, pensions, vacation time, and other benefits that have defined middle-class work the past few decades.  We need the help of organized labor:  are they really interested in us or are our workplaces too difficult to unionize?   I don't have the answers--all I know is that we are struggling and need their help.

    Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess singin' drunken lullabies--Flogging Molly

    by dalfireplug on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:25:28 AM PDT

  •  It sounds like your students (0+ / 0-)

    are either idiots or woefully undereducated.  seriously, they don't know who marx is?  I brought A People's History of the United States to my social studies class in seventh grade and talked about it with my teacher...  

    3 years ago when I was a freshman if I had shown up in a PoliSci or Soc class and asked "which one of the Marx brothers was Karl?" I would have been laughed off of campus with people wondering how the hell I got into the school.

    The problem with the US is how stupid the average American is.  At least you are educating these kids and teaching them good things.  Hopefully it sticks and doesn't get drowned out by Sports Center and American Idol.

    •  Education Is (13+ / 0-)

      One way to raise consciousness.  Apparently you are fortunate you had the upbringing, education background and support from parents and peers that maybe some other students didn't.  This doesn't make them idiots.

      If they're in the working class, they're your allies.  

      If I was a communist, rich men would fear me...And the opposite applies. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

      by stewarjt on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:35:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Amen (12+ / 0-)

        I'm reminded of the first paragraph of The Great Gatsby:

        In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

        “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

        It's genuinely amazing how many self-described liberals have obviously never had that thought. That is exactly why the Republicans have had so much success at getting the votes of the working class even as they screw it financially again and again. We make it much too easy to let them portray us as elitist snobs.

        Certaines personnes disent qu'il y a une femme à blâmer, Mais je sais que c'est ma faute sacrément.

        by RamblinDave on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:42:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This. And, speaking of "elitists" I've been (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lightbulb, princss6, conlakappa

          seeing so much fantasizing about potential riots in NYC against Wall Street, in DC against the federal govt... by many on this site.

          There is no consideration of how those uprisings would impact individuals, and families, less protected by wealth, education and skin color as are most of the commenters on DKos.

          Instead of sitting in SF, NYC or DC and urging on the little people to do your work for you, how about you get out there and persuade white people to vote their interests on a regular basis instead of voting to keep POC in their place for another election cycle?

          Once again, let some "other" people do the dirty work.

          You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale; you have to understand geological time- Wallace Stegner

          by blindyone on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:54:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  No they are not idiots. They are victims (20+ / 0-)

      of the current system of public education.  
       The biggest complaint I hear from them is "why didn't we learn this in high school?"

      I am heartened by the fact that quite a few of my students are now sharing what they learn with younger brothers and sisters who are still at home - and in some cases also sharing with their parents.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:40:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One More Thing (7+ / 0-)

      I would never call anyone stupid, except for Sarah Palin.  No, I'm joking.  She's uneducated, uninformed and inarticulate, but she's not stupid.

      Any teacher should truly believe that their students all have the intellectual capacity to learn, to master the material s/he presents.  If they  can read they can learn.  It may take some longer than others, but with repetition and consistent effort, they can learn.  

      If I was a communist, rich men would fear me...And the opposite applies. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

      by stewarjt on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:45:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  ;) You seem to have been both... (6+ / 0-)

      ...a fortunate and precocious child. ;)

      What passes for education is often laughable...especially in the area of history.

      When I was a manager for a small business, some time ago, a group of us were discussing Watergate, and a young woman in her early twenties asked (straight-faced), "What's Watergate?"  She knew who Nixon was but didn't know (was never taught) one of the most significant events in recent US history nor Nixon's tenure as President.  How.  the.  hell.  does.  that.  happen?!?!

      •  I graduated in 1982 (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Marjmar, evergreen2, GMary

        I swear to you, that until I was about 25 I didn't know that the Viet Nam war happened while I was alive.  I would get the Korean and the Viet Nam wars mixed up because they didn't teach either in school.

        If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

        by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:22:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Amazing, but I don't doubt what you are (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sychotic1, princss6, conlakappa

          saying. That's why, though I graduated in '69 (heh, we had 69 stickers all over our HS yearbooks) I agreed with the commenter above who spoke of so much time spent on early American history while labor struggles, the Depression, voting rights, women's rights etc got rushed through at the end.

          Since I didn't teach on the HS level, I am mostly thinking of what I learned as a public HS student who graduated when the anti-Vietnam war, civil rights and environmental movements were still going strong.

          And, I have the point of view of a parent whose children graduated HS in 2004 and 2007.  My daughter's AP History teacher was pretty successful in terms of the AP scores that his students achieved over a long career in public education. I do thank him for preparing my children for the AP test which they both received "5" scores for.

          Still, he started off the year with his old, probably laminated, class notes of how there were three races: the Black, the White and the Yellow. I'm not sure that he actually said "yellow" but, yes, his notes broke all of us down into three groups.

          So, if we are going to talk about the realities of how class and race work in this society, we have a lot of work to do.

          President Obama cannot spend his days pounding the podium and attempting to educate people who aren't listening to him for a variety of reasons.

          If the media because of their corporate directives, and public education because of Cold War fears, and tv/movies/advertising are selling us lies about how class and race work in this society, how do change things?

          You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale; you have to understand geological time- Wallace Stegner

          by blindyone on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 01:19:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly (0+ / 0-)

          I was born in 1986, graduated high school in 1968.

          I took extra history classes in high school -- it was a good school, I was college bound.  

          Every history class I took ended their discussions with WWII and the immediate aftermath. It was like 1950 forward didn't happen.  

          I wasn't even in kindergarten when Watergate happened.  I was in diapers during the last years of Vietnam. My parents wanted me to do well in school but we didn't talk about events of the day at home.

          I learned a lot of this late, on my own or at college but it wasn't a cohesive view, it's been hit or miss.

          I think Vietnam was so ugly, that after it was over people just wanted to forget about it.  The 50s, things like McCarthyism -- ugly.  We got tired out. Then we got Reagan. Anybody in their 40s or younger -- we got formed during Reagan or after.

        •  That's pretty hard to believe (0+ / 0-)
          I graduated in 1982 (3+ / 0-)
          I swear to you, that until I was about 25 I didn't know that the Viet Nam war happened while I was alive.

          Let's be charitable and assume you gradated from high school in 1982 at 17.

          Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, when you were presumably 10 years old.

          The ensuing refugee crisis, etc. dragged out over at least a decade afterwards and was not fully cleaned up until the early 1990s.

          You would have had to be a total troglodyte not to be aware of these things.

          I graduated from high school in 1985 but I remember the 1972 election (we had a mock election in my kindergarten class), Watergate, and the fall of Saigon.

          •  I remember Watergate (0+ / 0-)

            and thanks for the troglodyte remark.  Seriously, I actually went door to door for McGovern with my Mother, but no one let us watch the news during the war because it was considered to be too grown-up for us.

            I was born in 1964 and so no, I really couldn't have told you which war was Korean, which was Viet Nam and when each ended.  Not until I educated myself.  My schoolbooks pretty much ended with WWII, didn't even cover the Korean war.

            If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

            by Sychotic1 on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 09:35:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Buying books. (16+ / 0-)

      The only reason you were able to bring that book to school is that your family had the financial means to purchase books.

      My take-home pay is often less than 100 dollars. For my coworkers in my income range? Most of us can't get to a library because the library is not on a bus line. Very few have cars.

      Where are we all supposed to get all these books if not buy them or get to libraries?

      I'm lucky. I have internet. Most of my colleagues don't.

      I write the series Confessions of a Retail Worker here on DK. It documents my life in a non-unionized workplace.

      by Lightbulb on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:10:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I was working poor (4+ / 0-)

        most of my reading came from happenstance.  Paperbacks for a quarter at goodwill, yard sales, trade with friends...but you are right, I could have never afforded my current reading habit.

        If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

        by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:24:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Dangerous Cut-Backs on Public Libraries. (3+ / 0-)

        In the days when only a narrow sector of the American population could go to college, many, many Americans got their education through the public library system.  My mother, who had to drop out of 10th grade to work in the 1930's, never bought a book in her life, but she read constantly because we had a great local public library, and brought me there every week.

        Today the closure and cutting of hours of the public libraries are depriving millions of Americans to free access to the internet, which is the most sophisticated educational repository in the world.  We have to preserve our public library system for those who can't afford to buy books or to otherwise access the internet.

        It is for this reason that I am urging all progressives to create free or low-cost community-shared wi-fi access.  (If you have wi-fi, why not get a good security program and then open it up to your neighbors?  Sharing our old computers with others would help too.)

        The internet not only provides virtually the only access to factual news we have, but potentially puts all of us in direct communication with each other.  That communication is a crucial organizing tool.

        Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

        by Justina on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 01:21:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Politics have entered the classroom. (5+ / 0-)

      I'm sure half the districts in the country would fire a teacher who taught Marx these days.

      Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

      by Bush Bites on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:39:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I will have to respectfully disagree (3+ / 0-)

      I went to school in a solidly middle class area in what is now the reddest part of California (placer county).  I did not know who Marx except to say "Communist Manifesto" until will into my thirties.

      I took American History, I took honors English, I took Civics, I had 64 lower division college credits including Contemporary Political Science and no where was this taught.

      The only reason I know what I know about anything that is real is because I am an auto-didact that reads two books a week.  K-12 was for basic learning and indoctrination in my town.  

      If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

      by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:20:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My conversations on raising Social Security (10+ / 0-)

    I talk to people and raise political issues.

    Yesterday, I was the re-enactment commemorating the 150th anniversary of the battle of Wilson's Creek, the second most important battle of 1861 that took place just outside of Springfield, Missouri.

    Walking back to our car, over a half a mile, I start a conversation with a guy like me -- over 60 and white.  I mention doing this walk shows how STUPID it is to raise Social Security to seventy.  We could not have a job now that requires such physical exertion and we clearly should not require it in the future.  He agreed.

    I teach at a public university.  I can do what I do to seventy.  When I was in college, I walked on a railword extr-gang replacing rotten ties.  There is no way I could do that job today at 61.  

    We need to figure out how to make people aware of what raising Social Security means and how we got such protections.

    Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

    by MoDem on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:28:39 AM PDT

  •  The reality is that almost all of us (10+ / 0-)

    are working class in the sense that a financial disaster can wipe out decades' worth of hard work, whether it be medical bills, college tuition, and rising utility bills and costs of food that threaten monthly budgets of working families.

    Only the truly wealthy is immune from the everyday worries of the working class.

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:29:55 AM PDT

  •  My studies in the decade of the 80's (5+ / 0-)

    at the Univ of West Indies in Jamaica and the University of the Virgin islands in St. Thomas and papers I wrote and radio programs I produced on Marcus Garvey and Hubert Harrison and Edward Blyden showed me how in that era (the late 1800's/early 1900's) Class was of equal if not dominant importance to people of West Indian descent.

    Today's world in the US is far more  diverse and I imagine Race is now the dominant factor for minority (euphemism) communities and individuals.

    Thanks for this diary today Denise, I am terminally depressed over yesterday's political carnival.  Need to retrain my mind and think of more important things than the possibility of a republican President.  I just cannot believe the American  voter anymore!

  •  The Capital Social Relation (5+ / 0-)

    There's one relatively small segment in society that owns and controls the means of production, the capitalist class.  There's another large segment of society that owns one commodity, its labor power, defined as the capacity to work, i.e., the working class.  The social relation between these two classes is known as the capital social relation.  As long as the capital social relation exists, capitalism exists regardless of the amount of government involvement in the economic sphere.  

    This is all from Marx, not some modern sociologist.

    The litmus test to determine which class one occupies is this: Does one have to sell his/her labor power in order to live?  If yes, then one is a member of the large working class.  This isn't to say there's a lot of gray area and some people may have a foot in both camps.

    There's an implicit criticism in the above of the assertion that capitalism has been somehow replaced by something known as "corporatism."  Corporatism appears to refer to the complete capture of the state by capital.  That is, the state is the executive council of the capitalist class.  This is true, but it in no way negates defining the economic system as capitalism.  

    If I was a communist, rich men would fear me...And the opposite applies. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

    by stewarjt on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:30:37 AM PDT

    •  Correction (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, evergreen2

      The first sentence above should read, "There's one relatively small segment of society that privately owns and controls the means of production, the capitalist class."  

      If I was a communist, rich men would fear me...And the opposite applies. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

      by stewarjt on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:39:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's denial. (20+ / 0-)

    I've coworkers who make what I do, and we're all well below the poverty line. Yet they consider themselves middle-class and do not identify as working class. Don't know why. Working class is more accurate. Poor is even more accurate. Destitute is also true for some.

    Somehow though we're still all "middle-class" with "middle-class values" (read: white, Christian Calvinist, hetronormative).

    It's weird.

    I write the series Confessions of a Retail Worker here on DK. It documents my life in a non-unionized workplace.

    by Lightbulb on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:32:24 AM PDT

    •  Same here. It is a profound disconnect (7+ / 0-)

      from economic reality.  People have bought the "dream" of middle-ness and have it reinforced daily via commercials and other advertising.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:46:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  For some of them, it's a matter of self respect. (4+ / 0-)

      Who wants to call themselves poor?

      Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

      by Bush Bites on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:50:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  When I did that sort of work (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, Denise Oliver Velez

      I called myself poor or working poor.  This was to indicate  that although I was working I was falling well below the median pay and all the purchasing power and privilege that entails.

      Of course when I was working six days a week I didn't have much time for political thought, which is just as well because  I was a Republican back  then.

      Of course I also believed in the Elitist form of government.  Not that I preferred it, but I believed that was the form of government we were living in.  My  Poly Sci teacher believed we lived in a pluralist form of government, where people in large numbers could make a difference.

      I still think he is wrong but I am acting as if he was correct.

      If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

      by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:29:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was schooled early on. Yes, the vision is the (3+ / 0-)

      middle class, which I asked my mother if we were.  I don't know if I was 10 yet.  Once she stopped laughing, she said that we most definitely were not.  She said we were poor and she was working to give me opportunities that her even poorer childhood hadn't given her.

      Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

      by conlakappa on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 01:14:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Honest response to this diary (12+ / 0-)

    If you didn't write so well, and present what I consider scaled to the bone arguments/issues -- it wouldn't take me so damned long to digest.  I'm a notorious speed reader -- I cut through fluff and still can pick up any typo.  I have never once speed-read one of your pieces.

    I hope to come back later with something more substantive.

    I am so happy you are on the FP.

    Vi er alle norske " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:32:50 AM PDT

  •  Thanks Denise. (15+ / 0-)

    I am particularly interested in the issues of our domestic workers.  Working behind closed doors, with no representation creates working situations that are rife with abuse.  I know of women employed as housekeepers, nannies, etc. that are forced to work tremendously long hours and must follow the whims of their employers; often wealthy folks, who think room and board plus a $100.00 per week is a fair wage.  (This is actually quite standard here in NYC).  It is particularly galling to me, as many of these folks have second homes, and their domestic help are required to travel with him.  These are workers with families of their own, but are unable to spend significant parenting time with them.  In fact, their children often receive less care from their mothers, than their employer's children do.  (I'm somewhat reminded of Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye').  This often includes holidays.

    For the domestic worker that works in multiple households, the pay is at about $20 per hour, but does not include transportation.  While $20 per hour may seem like a lot to some folks, it doesn't go very far in a city as expensive as New York.  These women are also, for the most part, single mothers, who must leave their children at home.  They tend to live in the outlying buroughs and traveling time can be more than an hour.

    The attitudes of domestic employers certainly comes from privilege, and it amazes me that they could be so miserly with their worker's wages, and yet think nothing of dropping thousands of dollars on their own consumer needs.

    I would like to see more conscious raising about this issue. I would suspect that the Domestic Worker's Bill of Rights is not known, nor has it been read by most of these employers.  It needs to be.

    •  Both my grandmothers were domestic workers. (11+ / 0-)

      I refuse to forget that -- or shove it under a rug and as such have been very interested in the struggles of domestic workers to get their rights and be treated with respect for the work they do.  

      I am also very concerned about the lack of a safety net for their families.

      Thank you!

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:52:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  From Langston Hughes (11+ / 0-)

        This is one verse from his series on Alberta K--"Madam to You".  The whole series is wonderful, but I thought this was particularly apt.

        Madam and her Madam

        I worked for a woman,
        She wasn't mean--
        But she had a twelve-room
        House to clean.

        Had to get breakfast,
        Dinner, and Supper, too--
        Then take care of her children
        When I got through.

        Wash, iron, and scrub,
        Walk the dog around--
        It was too much,
        Nearly broke me down.

        I said, Madam,
        Can it be
        You trying to make a
        Pack-horse out of me?

        She opened her mouth.
        She cried, Oh, no!
        You know, Alberta,
        I love you so!

        I said, Madam,
        That may be true--
        But I'll be dogged
        If I love you!

      •  This on it's own could be a fantastic diary. (4+ / 0-)

        Not only the economic and class issues, but the immigration issues as well.  Many of the domestic workers in NYC are undocumented.  Additionally, the situation of working 'behind closed doors' creates individual sweatshops IMHO.

      •  Reminds me of a story... (4+ / 0-)

        just for great-aunt recently shared about her Aunt when she went to visit her in Merryville, LA.  She was the domestic for the newspaper editor in the town.  She was old and she was sick and her employers refused to let her go.  She actually had to sneak out of town to Philadelphia.  When asked in front of the employers, she would say she wanted to stay.  When my great-aunt finally got her out of the house and the town over to visit, she admitted she did not want to go back.  

        The abuse and exploitation should not ever be obscured as Nana (as we called her) was too afraid to leave and would have worked herself to death out of that fear.  I've no doubt that many domestics also find themselves in similar situations.  And the book, The Help, for whatever criticism there is, rightly or not, does illuminate the absolute control that was part and parcel of society that white employers had over domestics.  This is often forgotten with the whitewashing of history (oh they just loved their charges and their employer's family more than their own or that the employer treated them like family - akin to the whitewashing of slavery).

        I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

        by princss6 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:52:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My gparents were domestic workers. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        evergreen2, Denise Oliver Velez

        It's like living in your own little slavery country, living on that estate property. Babies are left alone all day long while parents work in the big house. As long as those kids are kept away from the feudal lord's kids, everything is peachy keen. The last few people my grandparents worked for in the 80s weren't like that at all. They were folks that had earned their wealth from dirt and they knew nothing about class and separation even when my gma was trying to oblige it at first. The woman had three daughters, 11, 10 and 8 and I was 9. I actually think they overcompensated and really tried not to exclude me in anything to the point that I was glad to be left alone sometimes.

        But, again, were talking about people who didn't inherit anything unlike when my gparents worked for east coast retail moguls with vast estates.

        "Warm smell of Moulitsas rising up in the air..." -seanwright

        by GenXangster on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:42:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Also missing from American history classes: (18+ / 0-)

    Students might hear about the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire - but odds are pretty bleak that they'll ever hear how many times U.S. troops have been called out to suppress labor actions, how many times company goons have attacked, beat up, and killed workers on strike or attempting to organize. They won't hear about the I.W.W., Eugene Debs or any of the show trials and jail sentences/executions organized labor has been subjected to in this country, supposedly paradise for the common man.

    But they will hear that capitalism + free markets + free trade = democracy. They may even be given a free copy of Atlas Shrugged.

    We're getting remakes of all kinds of films (Planet of the Apes anyone?) and Comic book Superheros by the score. Think there'll ever be a remake of Silkwood or Norma Rae?

    If you want to do something really subversive in a high school, see if you can get the school drama club to put on "The Pajama Game". It sounds like a bedroom farce - but it's  a musical set in a pajama factory that creates dramatic tension by mixing Class Conflict, the struggle between Labor & Management, and Romance together with some catchy songs. If kids ever look at the lyrics to "Seven and a half cents" or  "Racing With The Clock" they may begin to get a dim understanding what people fought and bled for to get a better life - and are still fighting for.

    There's even a cultural reference to a right wing radio blowhard in the show at one point, showing how little some things have changed.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:38:35 AM PDT

    •  I was lucky (4+ / 0-)

      because I knew who the Molly Maguires were in grade school and surprised a Canadian on a camping trip by discussing mine workers and their struggle to organize when I was a kid.  We studied the Chicago riots, the Triangle Shirt Waist fire and other labor struggles and tragedies.  Watch the film, Matawan.  There was so much done to labor that is is a national disgrace that we are going backwards on all lives that were lost gaining us those rights.

  •  Grandpa was a union man and every one (9+ / 0-)

    of his 6 boys, including Dad, was too, most working on the railroad. We were poor as church mice in the 50s, but Dad's blue collar union job eventually pulled us into the middle class: suburban home, two cars, color TV. Given what unions had provided for them, it was disheartening to see Dad and many other Dems from his generation become Reagan Republicans in the 80s -- a man whose term is defined by union busting and an assault on workers.

    Great diary!

    stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

    by Mother Mags on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:41:16 AM PDT

  •  Dem politicians never say "working class" (9+ / 0-)

    political consultants told them twenty years ago that most Americans believe in their upward mobility or want to inflate their own class status to middle.

    So, it's always "we have to save America's middle class," no mention of working class or poor people anymore.  We have no Party willing to say they represent workers.  How pathetic.

    This "strategy" reinforces the false consciousness and confusion of millions of people who vote repeatedly against their own self-interest and class interest.

    As a sociology professor I did the same sort of thing as the OP for years.  Important work but really against the tide.  And it's one of the reasons people in power are trying to move against college faculty, particularly social scientists.

    If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him.

    by jhannon on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:41:23 AM PDT

  •  The language is wrong (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RamblinDave, Bush Bites
    I often wonder if we are still in the grips of the chilling effect of the McCarthy era—where "labor" and "worker" and "working class" as terms became symbolic of communism and socialism and the left and were to be stamped out of the American psyche.

    I don't know anybody that would call them selves a "worker". Everybody I know refers to themselves as an "employee".
    It's a waste of time to try and rehabilitate these terms.
    Language is SO key to communicating our viewpoints. Why is it that the right have learned this and the left has not?
    •  Obviously I disagree :) (9+ / 0-)

      And I have friends who do call themselves workers and are busy organizing in workplaces across the nation.

      Just because the right has done such a good job of changing language does not mean we have to use it.


      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:55:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's a waste of time (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        because the real problem with the term worker did not come from the right. It came from referring to folks that did manual labor as workers. Manufacturing and construction were considered workers jobs. Office jobs weren't considered in the same light.
        That time has passed. Most people that work for a living no longer refer to themselves as "workers".  That's one of the problems with the left not wanting to realize how important language is.
        It's a Pollyanna view that you can say anything because you have the truth on your side. The world doesn't work that way.
        You might as well try to rehabilitate the word Groovy.

      •  We both have the same goal (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bush Bites

        just different ideas on how to get there.
        Thanks for your response.

        •  I agree with you. (0+ / 0-)

          Referring to "working people" as "middle class," I believe, is a relatively new development in Dem politics.

          I remember Biden advising the Obama team to quit calling people "working class" when he got the Veep nod.

          He said people who work for a living would rather be called Middle Class.

          I thought it was a positive step to move beyond the 60sd-70s terms that were killing the Dems with the so-called Reagan Democrats.

          Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

          by Bush Bites on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:45:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Denise - awesome diary. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez

        Language is important. You are correct that we don't want to fall into the trap of the right.

        An observation on the definition of "worker"

         "everyone who earns a wage or a salary and does not derive wealth from controlling the labor of others."

        Does that make the assistant manager at Wendy's not a worker?  Is that something we really want to do?

        What is the definition of the "other class" other than worker? I would suggest that it not be "capitalist" as that will be a disaster from a perception standpoint.

        Just a suggestion. Curious what you think:
        Worker -  "everyone for whom a majority of their wealth comes from  a wage or a salary.

        Investor - "everyone for whom a majority of their wealth comes from interest, dividends, or the appreciation in value of assets.

        of course that makes those with houses and large 401Ks more likely to be considered investors (even if they earn a salary).

        ...sorry I never learned a ton about Marx..... just that he's evil. I went to Levittown, NY schools.

        The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy;the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

        by CTMET on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:56:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I see 4 social classes (4+ / 0-)

          1. The ownership class: lives off of what they own (stocks, bonds, real estate) does not need to work to survive.

          2. The working class: must work in order to survive

          3. The managerial class: these are the people hired by the ownership class to run the business. Those high up in the chain (CEO's, board of directors) have a great deal of power and overlap with the ownership class in terms of being able to live off wealth. However, there are many in middle or low management positions such as a wendy's assistant manager who works hard and must work in order to survive despite having some power over others.

          4. The underclass: these are the unemployed. They provide a surplus pool of workers in case some employees go on strike or quit their jobs in disgust. If replacement workers are easily found, wages will be very low as you see today. This is why jobs are not the priority right now.

          "Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of overcoming it" Helen Keller

          by Johnnythebandit on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:12:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Now you know some one who calls themselves (10+ / 0-)

      a laborer.


      I don't work for anyone else, but I labor very hard. I carry many bags of concrete, I dig holes with rock bars and jack hammer. Temps have averaged in the 90s, I'm old, I labor.

      "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

      by ban nock on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:06:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Waves hello atcha. (6+ / 0-)

      I've always called myself a worker.

      I write the series Confessions of a Retail Worker here on DK. It documents my life in a non-unionized workplace.

      by Lightbulb on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:13:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  On second thought there IS a difference (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, Denise Oliver Velez

      because "unemployed worker" is NOT an oxymoron - whereas "unemployed employee" most certainly IS.

      Just more Divide and Conquer, this time dividing people who have jobs from people who do not.

      If it's
      Not your body
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      AND it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:23:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Defining "working class"... (7+ / 0-)

    ..."everyone who earns a wage or a salary and does not derive wealth from controlling the labor of others..." as Michael Schwalbe does is the first step in fighting exploitation. We have a new poet laureate who writes about the working class but has long been in academia. Does that disqualify him and make his work less genuine? Too often working class is defined by physical labor, conveniently ignoring our service economy. You do us a great service in underscoring the ways that race and gender are used to divide us in the struggle. I can't thank you enough for this diary.

  •  How To Move The Consciousness (6+ / 0-)

    First of all: Great article
     Some of us in the Labor movement have been having this discussion for some time. It would seem the problem is that many Working Class have a negative view of the term. They see it as dirty and somehow beneath them. In some Union halls it is never used as it is associated with being a Communist. (read Marx: On The Trade Unions) Unions are not revolutionary. So workers that are in the best position to understand there relation to capital in America don't understand class. This would explain to some degree why many Union members vote Republican.
     But the question is then how to educate theses workers of there class? Any ideals?  

  •  Thanks for this diary (4+ / 0-)

    While I would like to share this and the content of the comments with my brother, who works for a small airline in Ohio, and is solidly blue collar, he is also a tea partier and would freak out if I told him about something that even mentions Marx. He has a shrine to Reagan in his house...yes the cog dis is strong in several members of my family.

  •  One danger of the "fuzzy middle" myth is that (13+ / 0-)

    it prevents our society from recognizing how many of us are POOR.

    It's politically shameful/verboten to talk about programs that help the poor, as if the poor (as a class) became that way on their own.  It's easy for politicians or pundits to point to a few poor individuals as examples of the lazy or willfully poor, while ignoring the systematic shift of wealth from the lower and middle classes to the rich.

    The "fuzzy middle" myth also keeps us from recognizing the distance gained by the OBNOXIOUSLY SUPER RICH.

    As long as most of us think we're in the middle, the systems that shift wealth to the rich are maintained, at the expense of most of us.

  •  "Right to work" a non-conservative concept. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brae70, Odysseus

    Ironic that people who call themselves conservatives embrace it.

    At it's heart, it's not about embracing individuals' right to work so much as denying the right to contract.

    A labor agreement is a contract between private parties.  
    If management doesn't agree to the terms, there is no contract.  The business should have every right to agree that it will hire only workers who belong to a certain unions, or who agree to join the union after being hired.

    Taking away that piece of the right to contract is not a conservative action.  

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:54:41 AM PDT

    •  but it's a brilliant use of language (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dinotrac, Sychotic1, beforedawn

      something the left could learn from.

      •  Yes it is. "Our oil" is another. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        princss6, evergreen2, beforedawn

        I keep hearing about loosening up regs so "we" can exploit "our" oil.

        Yet another non-conservative notion exploited by faux conservatives.

        Oil beneath private property, or extracted on the basis of a grant of mineral rights isn't "ours".  It belongs to whomever extracts it.  For it to be "ours" we would have to nationalize or otherwise appropriate the oils.  Sounds like a socialist concept to me, not a conservative one.

        Democrats could learn a thing or two from these people -- folks who've tuned their ears to the concerns of ordinary Americans and adjusted their message appropriately.

        Might be nice to see people rail against things like caps on damages caused by leaking oil wells and unchecked fracking as attacks on the sanctity of private property.  That message isn't coming out from public people who call themselves conservatives.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:44:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Should that also apply to requiring workers to (0+ / 0-)

      join the Republican Party?

      •  Hmmmm. Would be interested in seeing how (0+ / 0-)

        that contract came about.

        Out of curiosity,  what makes you think there's anything to prevent employers from requiring workers to join the Republican party now?

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 07:08:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  So many issues this brings up. (17+ / 0-)

    Some thoughts off the top of my head:

    1) It was a very interesting experience when I was a nanny being a minority in the industry, being white. Most of the nannies in Vancouver were/are filipinas. Most of them were newly emigrated temporary workers who were immigrated by their employers, and were therefore dependent on the employers for their immigration status. Under Canadian rules, they were required to live with their employers and were not allowed to change employers. This lead to horrific abuse, because the employers could do anything to the women, including rape them or otherwise physically abuse them or steal from them, and the women could not complain because they would be kicked out of the country. Frequently, the women had families, including children, back in their birth country, who were dependent on the money they were sending. Slowly, these courageous women have stood up and demanded changes and things have changed, not enough, but slowly they have. I stand with them and honour them in their struggle.

    2) I helped to legalize secondary suites (basement suites) in my community. They were illegal because people wanted to live in a community of single family homes. One of the points I kept making over the seven years of my fight was that if they wanted people to pump te gas, to stock their groceries, to take care of their children, they had to make it economically possible for us to live there.

                  Bless you for this, Deo,

    Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

    by Chacounne on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:55:22 AM PDT

  •  Working class and poor (12+ / 0-)

    although I admit comfortable. I am lucky right now. But the luck and comfort of today can easily be taken away if I lose my job. I have seen this happen to others: not only do they lose their savings and their home, but they lose their entire lives: the end up in divorce and estranged of their children. And thanks to high cost of medical care, even if you save money you can end up with nothing if a family member becomes sick.

    Recently my kids asked my wife an I if we were rich or poor. I said "poor" immediately and my wife said "middle class" and then told the kids that daddy had funny ideas about class. This is interesting because I grew up in Mexico and my wife grew up in the U.S. I should be the one dazzle by consumerism. But I won't deceive myself: if losing your job can lead in a relatively short amount of time to catastrophe, you are poor.

  •  When people were advocating that you join the (7+ / 0-)

    front page I too added my 2 cents knowing essays like this one would be in the offing.

    This is outstanding.

    Thank You.

    "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:56:46 AM PDT

  •  Tips 4 Multi-Class Solidarity - IOW The Bottom 98% (4+ / 0-)

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party

    by OnlyWords on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:57:54 AM PDT

  •  I come from the working class, blue collar, and am (5+ / 0-)

    still working class, which has come to mean working poor as often as not. For the middle class to co-opt "working class," which they were instrumental in destroying thirty-some years ago, is not only ludicrous and offensive, but also a grim omen, an indication that they already know their fate. Like wanting to be called passenger pigeons or dodos. I still feel a strong resentment toward the class that threw me overboard when they find themselves being tossed over the gunwales and expect me to help throw them back in the boat after treading water for thirty years. No sympathy here for unemployed managers, but God and I love you if you're a worker.

    •  I hear ya... (5+ / 0-)

      except my critique is along the lines of racial politics and yes while you may be ambivalent about the managers (as am I), I can't easily ignore those who climbed over me and mine due to racism and now what to all hold hands.  It is a bitter pill and I'm sure you can see the cynicism of many who believe once the economies rebound, the managers will be back to their antics.

      I'm also reminded of how people of color have said for ages that we are not the enemy of the white middle class.  I'm not so sure the white middle class and/or working class still doesn't get that their own racial myopia is killing poc of color faster indeed but it is slowly strangling whites as well.  From what I see, far too many whites still aren't willing to grapple with how white supremacy and racism hurts them.

      I for one am tired of pandering to perpetrators --- many of whom are opposed to any discussion however it comes. -- soothsayer99 DPK Caucus

      by princss6 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:14:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree..racism is both homicidal and suicidal. It (5+ / 0-)

        has been the weapon of choice of the wealthy for keeping the working class divided, and while I am glad to see anyone who had bought into racism repent and change their ways, they have to realize that damage has been done and needs to be amended. White privilege in this country has been a piss poor substitute for human rights, and the myth of whiteness a sop thrown to the help.

        •  Much truth and a great last sentence. I might (4+ / 0-)

          just have to sig it!  My soapbox issue is about the whitening of America in the middle of the 20th Century.  Not by more whites coming to the country, necessarily, but by more being defined as white.

          Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

          by conlakappa on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 01:37:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  19th century...Irish and Italians had to become (0+ / 0-)

            white Americans. By the mid-20th, they were keeping black and Hispanic workers out of their unions. The myth of whiteness...that if you are white you are more like the wealthy than like the other workers, and if you are not white you can still partake of white privilege by doing as the wealthy dictate, and the basic lie of the myth...that white is better.

  •  I was raised in a union family (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, evergreen2, TomP

    my dad was the president of the local NALC union and my mom was active in the local CWA - it seemed like every summer one of them was walking in a picket line and taking me with them. But none of that made me aware of what it means to be working class until I took two History of Labor classes at SUNY Stony Brook by the best professor I ever had - Hugh G. Cleland. He was quite a character - he would come into each class wearing a vest covered with pro union buttons. He was an activist and was able to relate real life experiences to his classes. I believe that Professor Cleland has passed but I would highly recommend everyone take a History of Labor class.

  •  It is no doubt convenient (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, evergreen2

    that many times "class" so easily coincides with "race" in today's social definitions. Exacerbating problems with race make it easy for one working class race group to disassociate with other working class race groups.

    Divide and conquer.

    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, tardis10

    If I was a communist, rich men would fear me...And the opposite applies. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

    by stewarjt on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:13:41 AM PDT

  •  In London riots, class lines trump even race (6+ / 0-)

    That's why the Cons have been largely silent about them -- they can't claim that the rioters are all Muslims or all Jamaicans or all some other largely brown-skinned group, because too much footage exists of white kids lobbing rocks and looting.

    Visit for Minnesota news as it happens.

    by Phoenix Woman on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:15:23 AM PDT

  •  Interesting to read for me (4+ / 0-)

    I haven't been schooled in the US, but in Germany. So, I don't much about nothing concerning what defines and who defines himself as "working class" here in the US.

    Have you considered the level of education a person achieves in the US to be a factor in your students' self-described categorization of themselves?

    It seems to me one of the differences here in the US and Germany is that I believe (and it's just a hunch feeling, no data to show for to back it up) Americans of any race, don't consider themselves working class as soon as they "went to college and got a degree" in the expectation that the jobs they might end up elevates them into the fuzzy "middle class".

    Historically in Germany, I think, workers are defined by the lack of their university education, their skills attained in what you would call trade schools (but the technical training system is not comparable to the US tradeschools) and the fact that they are working manual labor in factories.

    In many ways these workers can more easily get a university education today in Germany (it didn't used to be before the sixties) to enter other job areas that are less manual, but more "brainy " (would be nice I could still believe that one... )

    On the other hand those German workers could and did become small business entrepreneurs and then they don't consider themselves  worker anymore. But foreign immigrants to Germany, the so-called guest workers - (often unskilled workers called "ungelernter Arbeiter") were never allowed to use their skills and become a small entrepreneurs. No citizen, no rights... Just to say that our racism and homophobia towards foreigners is as complicated and bad as anywhere else.

    On the other hand as you can get a university degree unburdened by your lack of money in Germany, many Germans with degree end up being unemployed or they form the "over-educated, brainy new working class" ending up in salaried jobs in fields not related to their education.

    Compare that to the US situation. I think most Americans believe still that to get a college degree means that you leave the working class behind. As it is so very hard to get a degree for poorer and low income families, which are predomninantly black, immigrant and other ethnic groups working class self-identification seems to be highly related to the educational level has achieved or is about to be achieved.

    So your for profit educational system divides into the race, ethnic and gender divisions  based on the "naked capitalism" expressed pretty badly in the US educational system, imo.

    Do you think I am about right in this?

    THINK instead of PREVIEW. Change the button, Markos, In memory of Meteor Blades.

    by mimi on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:16:20 AM PDT

  •  class awareness is alive and well in high school (3+ / 0-)

    If you ask your students about the groups that composed their high school, you'll see class-related categories. It's not so much where they come from as where they're going, although most kids who are preppies come from upper middle class backgrounds. The rest depend a lot on racial affiliations and again it's more where they're going than where they come from,

    For a start look at Penny Eckert's Jocks and Burnouts. Although a lot of other sociolinguists have examined these categories in terms of language variation.

  •  the 47% who pay no federal income tax (6+ / 0-)

    I am scared by the hatred being directed by the Republicans at those who pay no Federal Income Tax.  There may be a few lucky hedge fund mangers who shelter all their income, but basically that 47% don't pay any federal income tax because they don't have enough income.  Most of them actually are working: even after 20 years of rampant job-destruction, 80% or so of the adult population still has jobs.  All of them do pay other taxes. And yet they are viewed as freeloaders.

  •  Denise, Great essay! (5+ / 0-)

    You have given a great example of semantics and cultural hegemony.  In my opinion and in the words of Howard Zinn,

    "If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves."

    We will control ourselves because by accepting the ruling class domination of our ideas even though those ideas are surreptitiously forced into our thought through the twisted semantics mentioned in your essay.

    I suggest all incoming college students should be required to read Linda Holtzman's "Media Messages" prior to taking upper level classes.  The book was written in 2000 and needs an update to include the effects of the Internet, but as is will give students a history of how we have been programmed by the media.

    Perry, Romney, and Bachmann all have very nice hair. This will be a difficult choice for the low information voters Republican base.

    by Zwoof on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:32:10 AM PDT

  •  Bertell Ollman’s Class struggle (4+ / 0-)

    When I was growing up, one of my friend's fathers invited a bunch fo the kids over to test out a new board game a friend of his was developing.  It turned out to be "Class Struggle."  I was only about 8 or 9 and the game was way over my head, but it was fun.  Bertell was actually there and he looked a lot like Karl Marx - I remember asking him if he was the guy on the cover of the box.  I look back now and wish I had a little better perspective on the event, would have been interesting.

  •  An interesting study would be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    classify systematically the degree to which various social/political/ideological points of view have been included and excluded from the tests currently being developed and used to evaluate learning in school.

    It is one thing for some teachers to focus on one thing or another that relates to them while perhaps downplaying other perspectives: this would affect their classroom but would be counterbalanced nationally by students in other classrooms and also by the directions the students themselves might take in their own reading and writing.

    However it is quite another thing for there to be a unified curriculum based on standard tests, if that curriculum favors some particular point of view over others. Where is the counterbalancing effect of different classrooms, if all classrooms must teach to the same tests in order to “succeed”? How can students pursue other, perhaps contrarian interests, if those interests are outside the universal curriculum?

    Well, obviously, even with the tests, there will still be variations among teachers and students; alternative thinking will certainly not be killed off. But it will be harmed by it, unless a strong effort is made by the curriculum designers (1) to include as many of the important branches of human thought as possible in the curriculum, even unpopular ones, and (2) to value alternative and contrarian thinking as long as the tools of analysis and exposition are will-used in its expression.

    A well-designed universal curriculum could do a pretty good job of it if this is one of its primary goals. It's still not certain that it would be better than what has happened in the past based on the initiative of individual teachers and students. And if the creation of a broad, historically bounded intellectual context is not a major goal, then we're in even more trouble than I had thought. (All of which brings us back to the idea of studying this systematically in existing standard curricula and tests.)

  •  I'm not sure what you're arguing (0+ / 0-)

    Are you arguing that the kids in your class are not from middle class backgrounds? Is the working class not considered part of the middle class?

  •  Thanks, Denise. In the early 1980s, I (9+ / 0-)

    was part of an effort to unionize a large Planned Parenthood affiliate in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  What an eye-opener.

    It was the case then, and possibly still is now, though I do not know, that no PP affiliate was organized - and at the time, the national federation didn't want unions.  

    The organizing attempt came at a time when educational efforts were being severely cut back on the theory that "we should only tell women what they ask about."  Clinics had to become "self-sustaining" and there was a new emphasis on moving as many people through the clinics as possible.

    So many staff had been volunteers before becoming staff - we were in it for the cause, not just for the $$.  But changes happening were of huge concern to us.

    Our discussions with 1199C and AFSCME were somewhat helpful, but basically, they said, "We'll tell you what to do, but we won't help you do it.  Once you get enough cards signed, come back to us."

    So I had a friend who was with District 65 of UAW, and a strong, working class sense of loyalties come from NYC to meet with us.  She was great:  AND identified some of the union-busting tactics of various PP affiliates - including pitting black and white women against each other, putting "funny money" in paychecks, etc.  But she also laid the uphill challenges clearly on the line.

    In the end, our drive did not go forward because we splintered internally over fear of lost jobs before we even got a drive going.   When I tried to talk about the experience of internal splintering to a Marxist-Feminist Study Group (all white) I was part of in NYC (I trained there each Wednesday night), they were less interested in the dynamics of racial and class splintering than in the theory of what was going on, and what reading we could do to enlighten me.

    I felt enlightened already - from practical experience.  Left the study group.

    Later worked for a Quaker peace and justice organization that also opposed union organizing - but at the national and partially at the regional level, the effort succeeded.  The organizing buttons read:  "Has Thee Considered a Union?"  And when the union went for dental care benefits, the buttons read:  "Speak Tooth to Power."

    I just want to highlight for others that even in liberal/progressive circles, there can often be opposition to union organizing.  I still support PP, but with a certain hard-earned skepticism about the depth of justice commitments beyond certain reproductive rights.  I still support the Quaker organization, but with the knowledge that union organizing was, at the time, often erroneously attributed to "non-Quakers" who got jobs in the organization in the late 1960s and 1970s.

    And even in some liberal/progressive circles, efforts to splinter union efforts on the basis of both race and class are all too real.  

    So I just want to speak from my own experience in saying that the union struggle exists here in our own ranks, as well, and not just with the right wing.  

    I was a proud union member for a time - AFSCME.  

    And come from the working class, and it is still a huge part of who I am and where I come from.

    Teach us to listen to sounds larger than our own heartbeat; that endure longer than our own weeping in the dark. - Lillian Smith

    by RadioGirl on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:11:11 AM PDT

  •  I have worked in teh labor movement for (7+ / 0-)

    over 25 years and was raised in a working class union family. over the years I have heard again and again labor leaders referring to their members as the middle class and it always makes me cringe. I have always felt it was a disservice to our members. If hotel maids, nurses aids, janitors and auto workers are the middle class then who is the working class. When our leaders feed into this definition they feed into a philosophy that denigrates struggle and the need for struggle.

    recently there was a strike near me where the workers were being assaulted by the scabs even tough the scabs were far out numbered and the workers were running away.  In the 80's I was on a picket line in NYC where the scabs were afraid and the police were supportive even the homeless guys who washed windows back then would wash ours for free and tell their friends we were on strike.

    Things have changed quite dramatically in just my tenure in the labor movement. As long as the illusion of being "middle class" and just one lottery ticket away from joining the ranks of the really rich we will never be able to engage in the kinds of struggles that need to take place in order to get a fair share of the economy.

    To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men~~ Abraham Lincoln

    by Tanya on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:12:02 AM PDT

    •  Interesting (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tanya, Denise Oliver Velez

      When I was a bathroom matron or a hotel maid I most definitely felt part of the working poor, not unionized. That's was a long time ago.

      By the time I was (single, no children) in a union retail clerk job (also many years ago)  I felt working not so poor and able to save a little.

      I think Americans expect upward movement from working poor to working middle class, with a "safety net" (I hate that term) for those (few) who fall backward from working poor. Is this a myth now?

      The notion of class gets mushy for me versus the individuals transitioning through classes.

      I think this notion that people are transitioning with time and hard work may be a key factor in the concentration of policy on the middle class. Isn't a middle class of workers that's the ongoing and goal state until retirement? The few who move on are what? 15? Inequality of income is a clearer problem than class war IMO.

      I wonder what's the actual measurement of mobility today.

      Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

      by kck on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:25:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it is much more complex. Income is a part (4+ / 0-)

        of how we define our class but only a part. Many small business owners make less then skilled union workers. I earn much more than my parents but will never see the standard of living they attained.

        Inequality of income is a clearer problem than class war IMO.

        your quote is the class war and as warren buffet has said on numerous occasions his class has won. It is always about the distribution of the finite pie. since we as a class have stopped struggling to get a larger piece our piece keeps shrinking. Wages are now only 49.6% of GDP and the figure will continue to drop until we wage the kind of war that the ownership class has waged on us for the last 30 years.

        It is now common and accepted practice for unions to cross each others picket lines. There was a time when this was unheard of. PATCO changed the labor movement in ways that are incredibly destructive for all of us and until this changes we will continue to see our share of the proverbial pie shrink. Those opportunities of mobility will be fewer and fewer. But i would also argue that we are not really moving from one class to another. We are still in the same class as we improve our economic situation and when we forget that we begin the slow and steady decline backward. The ownership class never forgets their place in the pecking order and will always see the easiest way for them to get more is by us getting less. That is what layoffs, stagnant wages, and part time or contract labor is all about in highly profitable corporations.  

        To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men~~ Abraham Lincoln

        by Tanya on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:45:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This makes alot of sense (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Denise Oliver Velez
          . since we as a class have stopped struggling to get a larger piece our piece keeps shrinking.

          Maybe it time for a new way to rationalize and automate the "struggling".

          I suspect that in decades to come the most modern and agile parts of our social organization will evolve to even more portable and more fungible workers (talk about contract and part time workers!) where jobs, wages, and benefits are decoupled from the precise "employers' from job to job.

          That would mean employers and business owners would have to become more flexible and more fungible also, and since jobs, wages, and benefits would be  decoupled from the precise "employees' the expenses would be rolled into some kind of capitated tax like a "use tax"  for workers.  

          Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

          by kck on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:13:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  not sure what you mean by automate the struggle (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kck, evergreen2, Denise Oliver Velez

            I firmly believe the powers that be are thrilled that all we do is sit in our individual domiciles and sign on line petitions. Until we once again start meeting with each other, talk about goals, strategies and tactics and begin to disrupt business as usual we will continue sliding backward. We have to be creative and forward thinking but we cannot even begin to scratch our way back to where we were 30 years ago if we don't start to actually do something

            To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men~~ Abraham Lincoln

            by Tanya on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:24:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Automate...workers organizations need leverage (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Tanya, Denise Oliver Velez

              ...and innovative legislative infrastructure. Forgetting about that legislation in this climate, leverage is something that can be organized.

              Leverage has to come from some new externality given the now global labor market and continuous automation and productivity gains which is multiplying unemployment to a crippling degree.

              That may mean labor "mergers and acquisitions" and probably with more equity across industries and sectors and maybe regional, national, and global linkages as well as differences.

              Whatever it looks like, we are moving backwards and workers rights need to be resolved in new ways.

              Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

              by kck on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:53:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  i totally agree. one of the things i thing is (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kck, evergreen2, Denise Oliver Velez

                imperative is to educate European workers about how their corporations are coming here for cheap labor and it is only a matter of time before wages start to decline there as well if we don't start working together.

                To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men~~ Abraham Lincoln

                by Tanya on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:57:41 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  excellent essay denise, simply wonderfully (8+ / 0-)

    done. I have come to the conclusion many years ago that the usage of the term middle class (which originally had a clear meaning linked to professional classes) has been used primarily to hide the true class contradictions present in society in the US and UK. This term, divorced from its relationship to the ownership of the means of production and distribution has been used to distance people from their true class roots and has entangled them in an ideology of social mobility and consumerism to disguise the true nature of exploitation and oppression based upon race, class and gender in our societies. Thank you for this diary. I really appreciate the discussion of my favourite book on the history of the detroit revolutionary union movement (necessary due to inherent racism in mainstream unionism)  and black working class struggle: Detroit, I do mind dying).

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:16:59 AM PDT

  •  Imagine a baseball game... (5+ / 0-)

    The Yankees are playing another team, but I use the term "team" loosely. Why? Because the Yankees have decreed that the other team cannot be organized, cannot be named, nor may they have any associations among each other. The other team may have no management, no coaches, no organization. The other team members may not set forward any plays, standard plans, team positions, or other ways to react to the plays of the Yankees. In fact, the only instructions the players on the other team may get, must come only from the Yankees coaches.

    When these teams play, the Yankees set the terms of play, wages earned by their opponents, and decide who on the opposing team must play what position and what they may do in that position.

    The Yankees claim this is eminently fair.

    And, what a surprise, the Yankees always win using this strategy.

    Sound familiar? It should. This is the strategy used by corporations and business to define the terms of employee/employer relationships. In the standard model, employers can organize all they want. They set the terms and parameters of every interaction. They deny workers the right to organize at all, determine what information employees can share among themselves, and deny employees the basic right to plan or work together except as dictated by the employer.

    This is deemed eminently fair.

    And, what a surprise, when this model is followed, the employers always win.

    Of course this model, which would be patently unfair if  the Yankees actually played baseball by it, is deemed eminently fair when business owners play by it.

    It is an inequitable arrangement. It is unfair.

    Calling it fair does not make it so.

    It's long past time this country again stood for the rights of working people. Long past time for us to acknowledge that working people are the backbone and the strength of this nation. That without working people, the greatest business leader in the world is nothing more than a man sitting alone in an office doing nothing, earning nothing. Worth nothing.

    Wealth is made by working people. Prosperity is made by working people.

    America is made by working people.

  •  This sounds like a fascinating... (5+ / 0-)


    Every semester I ask my freshmen students at the state university where I teach to write a brief paragraph about who they are and how they define their families in terms of anthropological and sociological constructs of "race," ethnicity and socioeconomic class.

    But I'm not surprised by this, either:

    What I find interesting, and also troubling, is that almost all of them when selecting a "class" label say they are "middle class."

    And question those kids about where they expect to be financially in 10, 20 years and I'm sure the answers will continue to fascinate...

    “Sometimes, the most reasonable thing in the legislative process is to be unreasonable.” Mike Pence, R-Ind., on negotiating with the democrats.

    by dclawyer06 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:54:54 AM PDT

  •  First rate piece, deo...n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    princss6, Denise Oliver Velez, TomP

    “Sometimes, the most reasonable thing in the legislative process is to be unreasonable.” Mike Pence, R-Ind., on negotiating with the democrats.

    by dclawyer06 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:00:04 AM PDT

  •  To me middle class means a life of transitions (3+ / 0-)

    I have been every color collar - blue, pink, white, starched, union and management - from bathroom matron to retail clerk to professional grunt to executive. I considered myself a proud worker struggling to be middle class. From poverty to affluence always ready to lose it all in an instant which happens to people every day.

    While it's changing (a new set of issues in themselves), Boomers, older Americans and Latinos of every age share common defining transitions through recent immigrant roots and poverty to modest lives. Middle being a placement between poverty and born of generational wealth, dependent on relentless work to sustain.

    I've labored in a 100 degree plastics factory sweating for 8 hours working the lowest paid job on a loud screeching machine and left with a few others for a beer on the way home, grateful to have a job and a paycheck.  

    I have labored in an air conditioned suite for brutal 15 hour meetings at the highest salary range holed up with loud (mostly white) men and left with a few others for a beer on the way home, grateful that I had a job and a paycheck.

    In every job, increasing productivity reaped the highest rewards.  In a country with no mission or controls for full employment at decent wages, continuous productivity gains gets kind of tricky.

    I realize that technically this may be way off base but I'm just sharing what self-identifying with middle class means to me for whatever value it might have in meeting our goals.

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:10:44 AM PDT

  •  A really excellent diary, and (4+ / 0-)

    part of one of the very best front page's I've ever read on this site (I also really like Dem from Ct's piece on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security).  

    And I'm so happy that you mentioned Blue Collar, which I think is a vastly under appreciated film, although I remember that it got a lot of push back from the left party members I knew at the time because they thought it was anti-union. And that brings me to a point that your diary raises for me, which is how to deal honestly with the uneven record of unions on issues of race and gender.  When I say "honestly," I mean in ways that do not feed into anti-Union discourses.  

    •  I think the most recent great and missed (4+ / 0-)

      opportunity for such a discussion was when Trumka talked in 2008 about putting biases aside.  What I saw missing from the discussion then was why he would feel a need to do that/what the history of the unions were in re race.  

      Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

      by conlakappa on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 01:50:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Would "non-working class" be another (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    identification, i.e. the wealthy, retired and 9.2%?

  •  Why are you surprised? (0+ / 0-)

    It would be my expectation most people would answer 'middle-class' to that question. Being 'lower'class' still is stigmatized. No one want to be labeled that way, whether they are or not.

  •  Is this DailyKos? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    wow. what a pleasant surprise.

  •  Why is "working class" such a key term (0+ / 0-)

    why not work with what people have? I think "working class" is associated in people's minds with line worker.

  •  Superb Post, Denise! (4+ / 0-)

    I too cringe at Democratic politicians and, especially, labor leaders, who refuse to acknowledge the fact that the majority of folks in the U.S. are part of the working class.  By calling everyone "middle class" they are mis-representing the reality, perhaps in hope of escaping the threat of revolution.  For, if "Workers of the World Unite!" they will be out of a job.

    But putting semantic issues aside, the real significance is that it is those who are most oppressed in a given society who are most likely to want to over-throw the existing system and to take steps to do so.

    In the sixties and the seventies, many U.S. workers, primarily white, enjoyed a high standard of living, thanks almost wholly to a then strong union movement.  They could own a house and car, and one worker's salary could support a wife and two or three kids comfortably.

    I lived in a working class area of Detroit in those years, and as you ably pointed out in your discussion of DRUM, it was the black workers who were the most revolutionary in terms of not only racial issues but in terms of shop floor issues of safety, line speed-up, forced over-time and man and woman killing automation.  

    The black workers took on not only the bosses but the union leaders who routinely sold-out, accepting higher pay when the rank-and-file workers wanted a safe, more humane work place.  The companies wanted only more and faster production and were willing to pay for it. Wild-cat strikes abounded.

    Now, more and more of those who once self-identified as "middle class" no longer enjoy jobs with high wages and reasonable hours, if they have jobs at all. Meanwhile the owners and CEO's rake in billions, the disparity gets worse and worse and its inequities more glaring.

    As the ranks of the poor and under and unemployed grow, the system totters on collapse.  Likely they will lead the revolt. Hopefully, they will put in place a new, humane economic system, one in which human priorities, not profits, is the motive force.

    Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support single-payer health care,unions, and WikiLeaks.

    by Justina on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 02:38:03 PM PDT

  •  This is a great essay and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, evergreen2

    I hope it just the first of many on the topic.
    The fact is that we currently have little/no language to unify around. Hard to have clear,cogent conversations about shared goals when basic terms are so poorly understood. Or have been co-opted into the world of the quaint or the icky.
    I agree with some others here that as a single word,"worker" is rarely a useful term. I find when talking to people that a better reception ensues when I use terms like,"working people" or "regular workers" "average employee" and that for the main,the term working class can turn-off many that should be our allies. Why one might even think that stealing away the language was a strategy of the organized wealth elites. (snark intended)
    Here's to getting all our words back.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 02:55:45 PM PDT

  •  Classes si part of consumer psychology (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, evergreen2

    I learned about class status in my Consumer Psychology which is a part of Advertising Design major. When designing products and advertising for products you must target the consumer who are most likely to buy that product. So you use different set of criteria when targeting a market for Mercedes vs. a market for WallMart.

    Like it or no Class has existed for centuries and even in Democracy where class is not suppose to be a driving force it is. Even when Communism was was suppose to eliminate differences in class it did not.

    It is much easier Psychologically for people to move up in class, that it is to move down. The classes we were taught were: Upper, Upper Class; Upper Class; Lower Upper Class; Middle Class; Lower Class. Lower, Lower class.... poor.

  •  Wite collar vs. blue cloola vs. pink collar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There was a term used in the 60s..White collar jobs vs. Blue collar jobs. Not all white collar jobs paid more than blue collar job either. Since people who work in white collar obs not longer even where suits, white shirts and Ties and it i no longer a mail dominated world, those terms are passe.

  •  Wonderful diary, Denise. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm working class and proud of it also!

    The American people must wise up and rise up!

    by TomP on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 07:19:10 AM PDT

  •  Instant T&R and on a topic (0+ / 0-)

    near to me. Bookmaked for later.

    "Space Available" is the largest retail chain in the nation. -> On, Wisconsin!

    by Free Jazz at High Noon on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 06:05:36 PM PDT

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