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 How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail