Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]