This a guest post by Steve Banko, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran who has also served his country in positions in federal, state and local government.
By Steve Banko
Before anyone gets dizzy taking victory laps regarding the reopening of our government, this would be a good time to recognize the real engine behind the reopening. It was the air traffic controllers who spread the pain of the shutdown to the general public and thus impressed Congress and the White House with the critical need to stop posturing and reopen governmental services.
We do owe some congratulations to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for holding her caucus together but looming shutdowns at major airports were the drivers in ending the shutdown fiasco.
We should also remember that nothing is going to change in negotiations about a border wall between now and the next deadline imposed by the president for the second act of his shutdown theatrics so we might want to implore the air traffic controllers, the TSA, and other essential government services to preempt further lunacy by making it known that they will not tolerate any further hostage taking. They did it once and they can do it again. If they allow government workers to shoulder the full impact of a shutdown government closure could set a new record.
Sara Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Union, spoke to the issue of a general strike during the shutdown and she speaks wisely. We have long ceded power to Washington politicians. What’s that gotten us? It’s time to take back the economic power vested in people and demonstrate that power by warning the president and anyone else contemplating a reprise of the previous catastrophe that this time, it won’t just be federal employees shouldering the burdens. Next time, the entire nation must feel it.
The labor movement in this country, late in the 19th century, began in earnest to push back against the excesses of unbridled corporations and companies. Its history was one of continuing growth and emerging power until the demise of the heavy manufacturing industry in the U.S. The influence of organized labor waned in response the end of major steel making and other heavy industries.
But if we, the people, are to buttress ourselves against the politics of needless pain and intentionally inflected suffering, labor will once again need to step to the fore and lead the way. We have ceded power to a political system that thinks of its own propagation first. That system was never ideal but there was at least some semblance of sanity. But the last shutdown demonstrated the end of that sanity. We were paralyzed by the clutches of governance run amok until American workers stepped forward to spread the pain and force the government out of stasis and into action.
The president has already signaled his intentions to pitch another tantrum and shut the government down again. But we can stop him. We can signal that we’re mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore. The “we” must be led by working Americans. They can signal the president that his antics won’t be tolerated as they were previously. They can shut him down preemptively by telling him we won’t fly, we don’t drive, we won’t cook, we won’t serve, and we won’t educate if you choose to act like a spoiled child again.