The post about my union below (and especially the comments to it) got me thinking some more about labor. Someone rightly mentioned that a leader of his or her union was involved in corruption, and that fact helped disillusion many workers and fatally weaken the union.
It’s not just corrupt people who have ruined the image of unions (though, I’ll admit, American labor has had problems with malfeasance and organized crime).
Think about this–when was the last time you saw a labor union depicted in a positive light?
The only thing I can think of isNorma Rae, and that was 30 years ago.
It doesn’t matter what kind of workers we’re talking about, either. Consider the narratives that have accompanied strikes by the following groups:
Hollywood writers and actors? Pampered crybabies who don’treally work, anyway.
Autoworkers and steelworkers? Overpaid, lazy Americans who can’t compete in a global economy.
Professional athletes? Wealthy, often criminal, and many of them have the audacity to be black.
Pilots or airline workers? Haven’t you seen what hard times the airlines are experiencing? How dare these greedy, short-sighted jerks grab at more?
Teachers? Hell, anyone can do that job. And teachers’ unions just keep bad teachers from being held accountable!
It goes on for service workers, cops, firefighters, nurses, city/state/federal employees, dockworkers, truck drivers, carpenters, janitors, miners, and on and on and on.
When times are good, workers are told they can’t get raises because capital needs to be reinvested (that it’s often reinvested in humongous executive salaries is conveniently forgotten). When times are uncertain, we can’t raise salaries or benefits because of the uncertainty. And, of course, when the economy is down, we can’t increase worker compensation because the firm is in jeopardy. There’s always some bullshit excuse why the people who do the producing have to sacrifice more and receive less, and the people at the top deserve more and more no matter what happens.
You know, there’s one simple thing that would drastically improve labor relations in the US–national health care. At present, unions have to fight tooth and nail to get decent, affordable health care for their members. If everyone were already covered, then bargaining sessions could work on better wages, domestic partner benefits, and other quality-of-life issues (many of which fit into the progressive agenda very nicely). I’ve long thought that big businesses in the US would push for national healthcare, just because it would save them a shitload of money and trouble with collective bargaining. However, that assumes that the people running large companies aren’t, you know, retarded cuttlefish. Oops.