O Labor, Where Art Thou?

by DAVID MACARAY

It’s astonishing that we have all these people out there—all these wildly opinionated, patriotic folks—who, without any prompting, will spontaneously burst into rhapsodic discourse about how much they admire the “checks and balances” written into the U.S. constitution by our genius Founding Fathers, but who, alas, express nothing but contempt for the working man’s best friend: labor unions.

When you try to compare those constitutional checks and balances they so admire with the de facto “checks and balances” that labor unions contribute to the economy, these people go ape-shit.  They become emotional.  It’s like we’re suddenly talking about confiscating their guns.  It’s no exaggeration to say that these people are more likely to defend the most gargantuan and predatory corporations in the world than acknowledge the modest contributions of even the tiniest, most obscure labor union.

Over the years I’ve had these arguments many times—so many times, in fact, that I’ve broken down the “pro-union catechism” into six, user-friendly components: Resistance, Fair Play, Social Evolution, Consumer Economics, Personal Pride, and the Appeal to General Douglas MacArthur’s Restructuring of Post-World War II Japan.

(1) Resistance: without it, minorities are doomed. (2)  Fair Play: it shouldn’t be only the powerful who get the goodies.  (3) Evolution:  workers collectives are a logical point on the social axis. (4) Economics: the more affluent the consumer, the healthier the economy.  (6)  Pride: don’t act like sheep.  (7)  Douglas MacArthur (a right-wing Republican) insisted that post-war Japan establish unions.  Why?  Because he believed that, without unions, management would have too much of an upper-hand.

Oddly, none of these arguments have ever worked (not even the appeal to MacArthur).  Indeed, the most generous reply I’ve ever gotten from these hardcases was the acknowledgement that, while unions were helpful once upon a time (presumably, they’re referring to the 1930s), those days are long gone. Unions of today are not only unhelpful, they are downright harmful.  I’ve heard people describe unions as “corrupt,” as “poison,” as “job-killers,” as a “cancer on society.”

And they have the arrogance to say these terrible things with a straight face, even with union membership hovering at only 11.3-percent, even with the wreckage of the middle-class visible all around us, even with the so-called “working poor” growing faster than ever, even with the top 2-percent accumulating wealth at a record pace.  Yet these stubborn worshippers of “checks and balances” insist that labor unions are not only an anachronism, but a curse.

Yet, when you drop the big question on them, when you ask how workers can be expected to break Corporate America’s death-grip, they have no answer.  They have no remedy.  They sheepishly admit they have no solution. All they know for certain is that workers collectives are definitely NOT the way to go.  There’s a name for ignorant bastards like these.  They’re called “voters.”

David Macaray, CounterPunch’s labor correspondent, is a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd Edition). He was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power