UAW workers and their kids picket outside Ford's assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan.

UAW workers and their kids picket outside Ford's assembly plant in Wayne, MI

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Which Side Are You On: Whales,  Jobs, Wrenches or Duck Soup?

With the power of organized labor surging, two guys went to Detroit this week to apprise striking autoworkers what they think of their righteous labor. Joe Biden historically walked the picket line and told union workers, "You've earned a hell of a lot more than you're getting paid." A stable, genius, "billionaire charlatan" who long ripped off workers and ran a fraudulent empire built on lies raved to non-union workers about China, trucks, environmental lunatics, transitions to hell, yuge fake jobs, vote for me. Tough choice.

In a newly expanded strike of over 18,000 autoworkers against 38 GM, Ford, and Chrysler parent Stellantis plants in 20 states, the UAW is pushing the so-called Big Three automakers for significant pay and benefit upgrades: A 40% wage increase, a 32-hour work week paid as full-time, an end to lower pay tier forced on new workers as part of the 2008 bailout. Justifiably disgruntled workers cite the industry's surging profits - $250 billion over the past decade - and obscene payouts to CEOs - all over $20 million, sometimes thanks to raises of up to 40%, representing a nearly 400-to-1 ratio of executive pay to that of the average worker, presumably without breaking a sweat. In contrast, the real wages of many workers have declined or inched up by a mere 6% since their 2019 contract; across the country, many workers haven't seen a rise in the $7.25 minimum wage for over 14 years, and largely feel "we're on our own." At the start of the strike, mirroring pay at the top, UAW President Shawn Fain was demanding a 40% wage increase over four years along with the return of pensions and cost of living increases; he's now gone down to 36%, but nobody else has budged.

Given those grossly inequitable numbers, the fact over 60% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and the propensity of America's Fattest Cats to act like the entitled assholes they are - Jeff Bezos gives away just 1% of his billions and spent over double that to be weightless in space for four minutes - the strike has garnered broad support. Today, between 62% and 75% of Americans support the union, with that number rising. It thus made political and moral sense for Joe Biden, touted as one of the most pro-labor presidents in US history, to go Tuesday "where no president has gone before" and become the first sitting president to join striking workers on a picket line - a move historians called historic and long overdue. For a gleeful Michael Moore imagining "our 756 billionaires" as they "choke on whatever they were eating (and make a) frantic effort to find a baby aspirin in their vest pocket," it was also "The Day the Filthy Rich Were Sure Would Never Come" - the moment when "the man they thought they bought and paid for, their old friend from Delaware, yeah, that guy Joe, spoke up in "Scrantonese: You fuck with these good people, you’re fucking with me."

Outside a G.M. plant in Belleville, MI, Biden reminded workers they sacrificed to save the auto industry in 2008 when they were hurting, "now they're doing incredibly well (and) you should be doing incredibly well, too...The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class." Fain thanked him for "being a part of this fight" and "not falling victim to both-sides-ism." He later argued, "We can’t keep electing (clueless) billionaires to solve the problems of the working class," aptly referencing all those you-strike-you're fired GOP masters of cognitive dissonance who implausibly claim to be pro-working class while maligning unions. Among what Eisenhower in 1952called these "unreconstructed reactionaries," surely the most egregious bullshitter of them all is the twice-impeached, multi-indicted, silver-spoon-in-toxic-mouth, tax-cuts-for-the-rich, Labor-Relations-Board-gutting crook and liar who for decades has trashed unions (also, inexplicably, windmills), used mostly non-union labor, stiffed, stonewalled, endangered or underpaid workers and contractors, belittled the very notion of the power of organized labor and otherwise out-Pinkertoned the Pinkertons to steal from the little guy however he could in the odious name of enriching himself.

That tawdry history goes back decades. A report by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) found that, outside New York, Trump mostly used non-union crews in "right-to-work" states; faced over 60 lawsuits from tradespeople he didn't pay or shorted on overtime and over 200 mechanics’ liens for nonpayment; was sued by underpaid and unpaid Polish laborers working 12-hour shifts 7 days a week building Trump Tower in "choking clouds of asbestos dust"; was repeatedly cited for labor violations at multiple projects; imposed a "Trump discount" - often 75% of what was owed - at time of payment; paid contractors pennies on the dollar during bankruptcy filings; was sued for non-payment by multiple lawyers who represented him in lawsuits for non-payment. As president, he shaped an anti-worker SCOTUS, chose anti-worker hacks to make anti-worker decisions, bad-mouthed union leaders, wildly inflated awful job figures; and in Lordstown, Ohio promised jobs were "all coming back" right before the GM plant closed: "He flat-out lied to everybody." Said a union leader this week, "He would be a disaster for the American working families. He was a disaster."

He was also, it's now definitively established, a disaster at business. Ruling Tuesday in a civil lawsuit brought by A.G. Letitia James', Justice Arthur Engoron found Trump engaged in "persistent fraud” by wildly inflating his own wealth - upping the worth of shoddy golf courses and office buildings, a gaudy Trump Tower apartment he made three times its size, multiplying trashy Mar-A-Lago's $20 million value by at least 2,300%, transforming maybe $1 billion net worth into $10 billion. In what one sage deemed a "corporate death penalty," the judge also cancelled all Trump Organization's business licenses, effectively dissolving the whole rotten empire - "Spirit Halloween moving into Trump Tower" - sending it into receivership at fire-sale prices, leaving the fake tycoon possibly bankrupt and stripping him of his brassy, pathetic persona: "Like everything else about him, it was all a lie, built on rampant fraud." Engoron's scathing, 35-page opinion blasted Trump's lawyers for "pure sophistry," dissed their defenses as fantasy "without basis in law or fact" akin to both Groundhog Day and Duck Soup, slapped sanctions on them, suggested Trump was also guilty of influence peddling, and left his chance of winning an appeal at "between zero and nothing." Karma rules.

Still, there he was, in Detroit at the incongruously non-unionauto parts supplier Drake Enterprises, greeted by UAW workers chanting "Hey hey ho ho Donald Trump has got to go" and a circling airplane proclaiming "TRUMP SOLD US OUT" but determinedly distracting from his cowardly absence from another GOP debate by telling a carefully curated crowd that Biden will "murder the U.S. auto industry," "kill countless union autoworker jobs forever," "(sell) you out to China (and) environmental extremists," see "your lives wrecked and your families destroyed, and in two years, using electric cars, put "(you all) out of business" in "a transition to hell." But you'll have more (short-on-specifics) jobs you've ever seen before if you "just get your union guys (to) endorse me" (from a non-union shop because unions tend to support Democrats), also fake signs, "Barack Hussein Obama," and electric cars that will sell for "peanuts" and "go for like one-fifth," in contrast to "one of the good brands" of current gas-powered trucks, like "you take a Powerbuilt," except Powerbuilt is a brand of tools, not trucks, but vote for me and incoherence and nihilism anyway. The UAW's Shawn Fain: "I don't think he gets it."

“They pit the lifers against the new boy, the young against the old, the black against the white. Everything they do is to keep us in our place.” - Yaphet Kotto as Smokey in Paul Schrader's Blue Collar, a dark movie in which "the bad guys far outnumber the good guys because the bad guys are power incarnate and the good guys merely work for it."

Which Side Are You On? - Pete

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