When he was governor of Louisiana in 1930s, Huey Long had a slogan.
It was “Every man a king.”
The idea was that with Long in the governor’s mansion, every person, no matter their job, would enjoy the kind of wealth and happiness normally enjoyed only by monarchs.
Hence the phrase “Every man a king.”
Today’s Republicans actually have a similar slogan, although they’ve never come out publicly and said it.
Their slogan is “Every businessman a king,” and the message to US workers is simple: “Your boss owns you. And if you’re a woman, your boss owns rights to your body, too.”
Don’t believe me?
Get this: Right now, House Republicans are trying to give employers here in our nation’s capital the right to fire their employees if they go on birth control.
Seriously, I’m not kidding.
Last year, the Washington DC city council passed a law called the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014 (RHNDA), which bans employers from firing or otherwise punishing employees for the private decisions they make about their reproductive health – for example, going on birth control.
Naturally, right-wing religious groups started freaking out, and that got the attention of House Republicans who see the religious folks as great suckers who’ll vote Republican because of their religion, even though the Republicans are robbing them blind economically.
These Republicans in Congress are now using the oversight powers they have over Washington, DC to try and block the RHNDA.
If they get their way, a woman working in Washington DC could be fired for something as simple as having a child out of wedlock.
The Republican line, of course, is that, like the Hobby Lobby case, this all about protecting the religious liberty of the employer. But that’s just a flat-out lie.
This isn’t about religious liberty at all – this is about the enthronement of the business class above everyone else in our society.
This is about turning business owners into modern-day kings and turning US workers into modern-day peasants.
This is about trying to induce Stockholm syndrome in workers by putting every aspect of their lives under the control of their employer.
This about doing away with the traditional role of corporations – to shield business owners from liability and risk – and ushering in a new era where corporate “persons” have more rights than actual people.
And this is, above all, about sending capitalism back into its natural state, which, not surprisingly, looks a lot like feudalism.
At the top of the social pyramid of “natural capitalism” is the CEO or business owner who has all the powers of a king, and often lives and travels like one.
Then, just below him, are the senior executives or middle managers who, like feudal lords, amass great wealth and control the lives and fates of those under them.
Then, at the very bottom are the workers, who are basically serfs, and if they dare defy the king or his lords, they can be punished in ways up to and including imprisonment.
This is the type of world so-called “religious liberty” laws that are meant to create, and this is the type of world that generations of Americans lived under until the rise of the labor movement and the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935.
That’s because, like the legislative branch in our checks-and-balances system of government, unions are a counterweight to the power of organized money – the corporation.
Without that counterweight, capitalism reverts back to its feudal origins, which is exactly what’s happened since the Reagan years.
Now, just like they could 500 years ago in medieval Europe, employers can treat everyday people like their personal property, and, if House Republicans get their way, they’ll soon even be able to tell their employees how and when they have sex.
Besides good legislation, the only thing that can stop this long slide back to feudalism is a strong union movement.
So call your local congressperson today to tell them you support card check, oppose right-to-work-for-less laws, and believe that, as the old labor song goes, “there is power in a union.”