More on Labor

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.

8 thoughts on “More on Labor

  1. That was me that mentioned the corrupt guy who took over the union’s barganing abilities–and to be fair, the membership just let him. A few of us members were jumping up and down and raising the alarm and we were ignored and dismissed as lunatics–with the corrupt guy leading the way in accusing us of being lunatics.
    But you know who drives the negative pictures of the striking workers, don’t you? Yes, that’s right. The industries they are striking against–and those industries have more money and more media influence. You saw that in the stagehands’ strike in NYC. They were painted as a bunch of lazy jerks who just wanted to pad the crews at the producers’ expense. Couldn’t be farther from the truth, but that’s the line the producers fed to the media–along with trying to curry favor with the public by portraying the stagehands old meanies who were denying tourists and kids their chance to see their favorite shows during the holidays. Gah. Also, the media never tells you that when there is a strike, nine times out of ten, the industry being struck has what they call a “strike fund” which they put in place to cushion any losses they might suffer. Of course, this is much larger than any strike fund a union might have–which is there to pay the striking workers something while they are on strike. This unbalanced situation often results in forcing the union to capitulate much sooner than it might have to begin with.
    I learned early on in theatre that management was NOT my friend and the union was the only hope I had to even the playing field even by a little bit. Every worker should realize this.

  2. Well, when I see topless pictures of Jeremiah Wright, I’ll get right on that.
    Sheesh. You people demand so much!

  3. [[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 is Norma Rae, and that was 30 years ago.]]
    Oddly enough, if my memory serves, a dockworkers’ union was presented as both mob-influenced AND the good guys in the Arnold Schwarzenegger flick “Eraser.”

  4. I meant to respond earlier, but… I’ll admit to being sick & goddamned tired of this we’re pure but the union bosses are all corrupt bullshit. These ideas are the ideas of the too-cute, too-sensitive, too-cool for the mud of working class politics & protection. If they are corrupt, they’ll end up in jail, but do some effing research about just how many of these evil union bosses wound up in prison. It’s the old some of my best friends are black but don’t let them move in next door & marry my daughter or son. I’m sorry if I have offended anyone, but jesus christ on an organic cracker, get real & get organized. I know it might be hard, particularly if you have a Ph.d., but it will be worth it to all Americans. Thank you & that is all. For now.

  5. There was also the movie, more recent than Norma Rae, called Bread and Roses, which presented unions in a positive light.

  6. coldH20wi, admire your passion, but really. Only people who are jailed for it are corrupt, so if they weren’t jailed they must have been innocent? Puh-lease. That goes for corrupt managment as well, needless to say.

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