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December 24, 2008


looks like the very embodiment of Satan, to me.

It's just stunning to me that there are people around who believe in the myth of widespread union thuggery. It's a perfect example of the black is white up is down lie is truth foundation to the rightwing world view. I'm no labor historian but right off the top of my head I can think of such notable examples of evil union thugs harassing the innocent as:

Pullman strikes
Mattawan killings
Centralia castration and hanging incident
the Seattle strike
Norma Rae!
All those migrant farmworkers for who I boycotted grapes

Yes, I am being sarcastic and yes I know about Jimmy Hoffa.

Point is opinions about labor unions in general should be based on the history of labor unions within the general context of American history, not on the isolated incident or personality that can be used to re-enforce a preconceived narrative. If a person isn't willing to evaluate unions in general against the general context of history then the individual should refrain from making a generalization about unions at all.

I do know the general historical context and I will now assert my generalization about unions: without them there would be very little access to the middle class or even the lower middle class for people who don't have white collar professions. Which makes unions good ( in general)if you care about your fellow Americans having a decent standard of living.

Not only that but all of those people who have disposable income because they have union pay can go out and spend their money which keeps other businesses open. Impoverish the basic workforce and you impoverish the nation: that's the lesson of supply side economics. Give the workers a bigger hunk of the pie and they pass it around: that's the lesson of unions.
Unions are only bad (in general)if one only cares about the owning and managing class. It all comes down to Social Darwinism in the end.

Unions become bad when they turn into corporations in all but name (over here they even do mergers, and high functionaries of unions occasionally change sides and join the board of directors). It's all a question of balance. In the US unions have become too weak, in other countries they have become too strong (and corrupted as a consequence).
I know companies that are union-free out of free choice (because the management is reasonable enough to make them unnecessary) but those are rare exceptions. I also know unions that start wars against other unions for being reasonable instead of properly ideological but that should not be dealt with by wiping out the idea of unions itself.
What is needed in general:
1.Unbiased clear laws
2.Unbiased enforcement of those laws
The US is currently deficient on both counts but especially so on the second.

Actually wonkie's post was pretty solid right up until the point that the mythical connection of unions to the middle class zombied out of the mist. To give unions credit for the middle class is to cast dispersion on the millions of prudent, dedicated, productive human beings that granted their parents wishes and bettered themselves. To establish this event as the posterchild for the elimination of secret ballot voting rights is as sad as it is typical. And yes Virginia, there is thuggery.

This is why the middle class for African Americans and Hispanics is so robust, because even without unions, they were able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and needed no union help. Not.

Zombied out of the mist! That's a great phrase!

I don't deny thuggery--didn't I mention Hoffa? And our local Longshoremen are notorious for clannishness, nepotism, and partying. However i stand by the assertion that unionism provides one of the best and easiest routes to the middle class for those who can't afford or don't have the right attributes for a white collar job.

My community used to be rich in such jobs: Teamsters, Longshore, electricians, carpenters, the cement plants, the timber processing plants, the paint manufacturerers, the non-white collar professional staff at the public institutions, and more. Now just about the only jobs left out side the publicn sector that provide a living wage are the few remaining union jobs. A person of good character, willing to work hard, is screwed in today's low union economy. Just a couple of decades ago that sort of person could start off at enrty level with no skills beyond high school and quickly become a taxpaying, big spending supporter of their own family and other businesses. Now the same type of person can barely support himself or herslef, let alone anyone else.

I don't see why it is a slap in anyone's face to point this out. The assumption seems to be that I am suggesting that non union jobs aren't as hard or the people who hold them don't work as hard.

Well, no. I am assuming that most people work pretty hard at their jobs regardless of other factors; however, union employess get paid more and have better benefits. Why the hell is anyone against that?

BTW it is a historica fact that the black middle class was significantly enlarged when the big city unions such as the autoworkers stopped discriminating against African Americans a couple decades ago.

For all the reationalizing and running in circles the bottom line is this: if one argues against unions or in favor of weakening unions and against strengthening them, then one is arguing against empowering fellow Americans to bargain for better living conditions, conditions that they are unlikely to get any other way. Period.

Justify that, folks, on the day after Christmas!

blogbudsman's kvetch ignores the fact that many of the worker protections we all currently enjoy -- including those of us who are non-union -- became law in large part because of union lobbying. Which is to say that you don't have to be a member of a union to benefit from union efforts.

This isn't to say that I'm unconditionally pro-union -- I'm not. But I agree that in the US, they've become too weak. Things are best when the interests of management and the interests of labor are in perfect tension, with neither getting too much advantage over the other.

I have no problems with Unions in general (although I do take issue with specific Union actions I disagree with), but I do abhor the states that force me to be in a union. I should be able to choose to join a union if one exists at my place of employment, and if I don't join the union, I should be able to negotiate with my employer for my benefits package.

Being forced to be in a union and not being able to make that choice is something I find very irritating. I should not have my options of employers limited by who is unionized and who isn't.

There is another, very powerful, reason to have right to work laws in all states. This year, as my union was negotiating a new contract, it was pulling all sorts of tactics that I and a lot of my fellow workers found offensive. We tried to make our voices heard to the union leadership, but they did not seem to be very interested in listening to us and instead spoke mainly with workers who talked the party line. If we had the option, a lot of us would have withdrawn from the union right then and there. The loss of membership (& dues) is a very clear message to union leadership to pay attention to the rank and file, and not to their own egos and interests. The system as it exists now, does a pretty good job of isolating the union bosses from the consequences of their actions.

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