I went to a worker’s right conference in Washington this past weekend as part of a labor law fellowship I had done this past summer. I had done a couple labor law internships before, knowing that employees are largely at the mercy of the employers as far as their rights went. And employers aren’t necessarily content with that alone; some will screw people out of even the legally required minimum wage¬† by classifying them as independent contractors,¬† thereby also getting rid of the overtime and benefits requirements.

This conference drove all that home and then some. Workers need all the help they can get; the legal deck is stacked against them, and getting ever more stacked. The National Labor Relations Act, which was passed during the New Deal in order to protect and promote collective action, has been gutted over the years. Unionizing is not what it used to. Even striking is less effective than it has been in a long time, as employers can simply hire “permanent replacements” that essentially amount to firing those asserting their labor rights. The Bush years and his appointments to the National Labor Review Board hurt workers a lot while lining big business’ pockets. The American working class has lost $17 trillion since the recession started, and corporations still hand out executive bonuses like candy. Even that is not enough, as some banks have been writing fraudulent mortgage foreclosures to kick people out of their homes. Anything for maximized profits.

Just a lot of interesting bits of information. The presidents of some of the most progressive universities in the country, for example, won’t let their custodial staffs unionize despite multi-week hunger strikes. I challenge anybody to spend an hour looking into this stuff without feeling that something has gone terribly wrong.