Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The Best Union in the World Goes on Strike


Why is it easier to respect (maybe “respect” isn’t the right word) a self-confessed racist (“I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like black people.”) than an obvious racist who goes around sanctimoniously pretending he has no prejudices?  Dante was aware of this phenomenon 700 years ago.  In his “Inferno,” Dante consigned the hypocrites and liars to a lower circle of Hell than the murderers.

Over the years I’ve received many letters and comments from people who rejoice in telling me how much they hate labor unions.  They hate unions because they’re too powerful, because they drove our good jobs overseas, because union workers are lazy and incompetent, and “can’t be fired,” and because union officials are greedy and corrupt.

Each assertion can be refuted.  Union members comprise only 11.3-percent of the workforce, with less than 7-percent in the private sector.  Companies relocate abroad to avoid paying American wages, not union wages.  Jobs that offer the best wages and benefits will attract the best workers in the community.  No contract in America (none!) forbids management to fire incompetent workers.  As for greed and corruption, they’re confusing Main Street with Wall Street.

But as full of shit as these letter-writers are, at least they are honest and sincere, and I respect them for voicing their objections, pitiful as they are.  It’s the phonies and pretenders I can’t abide.  They’re the ones who say they would gladly embrace organized labor if only our unions were more like those of Germany.  It’s always Germany.

Of course, these hypocrites are lying through their teeth.  They hate all unions.  They hate all unions because unions are audacious enough to ask for a larger slice of the pie, and these people don’t believe working should get a larger slice….period.  And it’s always Germany they mention—Germany with its discipline, its burgeoning economy, its perceived “partnership” with labor.

The reason these people like German labor unions is because they don’t understand them.  They’ve heard German unions don’t have the same “adversarial” relationship with management that we do, which naturally appeals to them, but what they don’t know is that (1) our own “adversarial” relationship is the result of being denied the very partnership privileges those German workers enjoy, and (2) that German unions are as savvy and tough as they come.  You mess with them at your own peril.

Evidence of that toughness was shown Monday (April 22), when Deutsche Lufthansa airlines announced it had been forced to cancel 99-percent of its European service due to a one-day strike called by a union representing ground workers and cabin crew.  A total of 1,755 flights were grounded.

The Ver.di union, which represents about 33,000 Lufthansa employees, warned the company that additional work stoppages could be expected unless Lufthansa agreed to a 5.2-percent wage increase.  So much for those touchy-feely, non-adversarial German “partnerships.”  The next round of negotiations is scheduled for April 29 and 30.

The strike is partially the result of Lufthansa’s bold announcement that it intends to raise its profits to an all-time record of $3 billion by the year 2015, and plans to do so by cutting operating costs and increasing sales.  Alas, part of that cost-cutting effort includes the elimination of 3,500 jobs.  The union is not only seeking a raise, it’s demanding job security provisions.

It’s doubtful those faux-admirers of German labor unions will remain consistent and approve of the Lufthansa strike.  That’s because they despise anything that disrupts commerce.  They professed to admire German unions when they perceived them to be as tame as puddle ducks, quietly sitting at management’s table, but it’s a whole other deal when a union bares its fangs.

Unions were invented for one reason: to represent the interests of working people.  If you can do that through economic partnerships, good for you; but if it takes militancy and disobedience to get it done, so be it. (Please note: In no way was this thumb-nail sketch of German labor unions meant to be definitive.  Far from it.)

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.

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

More articles by:

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

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future