FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Without Unions the Bullies Will Win

by DAVID MACARAY

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of old-fashioned “resistance.”  Indeed, without resistance (e.g., pushing back, taking an aggressive stand, demonstrating that you’re willing to fight, etc.), things can get out of hand very quickly, whether we’re talking about international relations, social intercourse or basic economics, whether it’s children or adults.

Take the typical school yard bully for example.

The thing that keeps these bullies going is that no one resists them.  No one is willing to fight back—either by instantly reporting them to a teacher, or (taking matters boldly into their own hands) by punching them squarely in the nose.  And experience has taught us that when you appease a bully, two things happen, both of them bad:  the bully continues his dominance, and his bullying tends to become more frequent and ambitious.

On Sunday, April 7, the Los Angeles Times ran a disturbing front-page story on the topic of worker victimization.  The article pointed out that employers now believe (especially since the recession) that they are firmly in the driver’s seat, that the economy has become such a lopsided “buyer’s market” that they can now pretty much force their employees to do anything they wish.  After all, who or what is going to stop them?

It’s sad to report, but businesses have won.  They’ve increased their production demands, they’ve extended employees’ work hours (after having laid off a number of them), they’ve taken to issuing ultimatums (If you don’t like it here, quit), and they’ve done all this while, simultaneously, having kept wages relatively stagnant.  As for traditional benefits such as pensions, bonuses, sick leave and paid vacations, forget about it.  Most of those have been abolished.

Clearly, things have shifted dramatically.  Companies are now running roughshod over their employees—not those in upper management, mind you, and not those who hold computer science degrees from Stanford University, but the regular folks, those with high school diplomas who just want to work for a living and are fully cognizant that they have “jobs” rather than “careers.”

Welcome to the underbelly of technology.  Companies electronically time your potty breaks, they electronically measure your output, they spy on you with cameras, they force you to attend indoctrination meetings and film you as you listen, and they send out emails threatening to fire you if you show up late to work.  Things have shifted so dramatically, management now expects to run the table every time they pick up a pool cue.

Which brings us to the role of labor unions.  It’s no accident that this draconian work environment coincides with the precipitous drop in union membership.  It’s no accident and no coincidence, because the one thing a labor union brings to the workplace is resistance—resistance in the form of worker representation and adult supervision.

A union contract requires a company to follow certain rules.  And despite all their squawking, if management didn’t fully understand the rules and, in truth, didn’t see the basic wisdom and fairness in them, they wouldn’t have signed the contract in the first place.  I’ve negotiated five of them, and believe me, only a stupid or wildly reckless management team is going to shoot themselves in the foot.

Yes, union jobs offer about 15-percent higher wages and benefits, and yes, union safety programs are infinitely superior to non-union programs, and these by themselves are tremendous advantages to becoming a union member.  But a union also offers something less tangible.  A union contract provides an employee with dignity—with the expectation of coming to work and being treated with respect.  And that is no small thing.

If anyone is able to name another institution that can provide America’s working class with the built-in dignity and economic advantages a union can, I’d love to hear it, because it ain’t the federal government and it ain’t philanthropic organizations.  This is all about resistance.  Without resistance, workers have no leverage.  Resistance is everything.  And without labor unions, the bullies will continue to win.

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

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail