FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No Matter What Happens, Unions Get Blamed

by DAVID MACARAY

How important is it to Japan’s economy to continue selling Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans? How crucial is it to its job market? How many primary and secondary jobs in the manufacturing sector has the auto industry created? Are the rewards of sustaining and expanding the Japanese auto industry worth the risk of occasionally getting caught cheating?

A couple of weeks ago (September 27), the LA Times reported in a tiny story on page two of the Business section that some Japanese companies had pled guilty to auto parts price-fixing. Considering Japan’s unfortunate history of economic duplicity and mischief, this comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention.

According to the Times article, “Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Hitachi Automotive Systems, and seven other Japanese companies agreed to plead guilty and pay a total of $740 million in fines in a price-fixing conspiracy targeting automakers that included General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.” It concluded by noting that, in its on-going investigation into auto parts price-fixing, the U.S. Department of Justice has already levied $1.6 billion in fines.

Not that American businesses are innocent. Not that American businesses (or the U.S. government, for that matter) haven’t been guilty of their share of unethical and downright criminal activities. Price-fixing, padding of defense contracts, false advertising, insider trading, tax fraud, cheating workers out of their wages, etc., these are part and parcel of the American business landscape.

My beef isn’t that capitalism is intrinsically flawed, or that the governments of certain Asian countries subsidize and manipulate national industries in order to squelch foreign competition, or that Japan gained entry into the U.S. market by illegally “dumping” cars (selling them below-cost), or that U.S. companies are now shipping our jobs to low-wage Third World countries, or that Wall Street is investing in those outsourcing companies.

Rather, my complaint is more parochial. My complaint is that, in response to Japan’s spectacular (albeit illegal) entry into the U.S. market, too many people drew the erroneous conclusion that American workers weren’t capable of producing a top-quality car, and, more specifically, that labor union members were inferior workers. You still hear people today parrot that ridiculous factoid.

The notion that union workers are substandard is one of those toxic myths that have been around since post-Reagan Republicans first began their assault on organized labor. In truth, any objective observer will tell you that union workers tend to be better than non-union workers. Why? Because jobs that offer high wages, generous benefits and good working conditions (i.e., union jobs) will attract the best workers in a community. Why wouldn’t they?

And this may be a silly question, but who do we think built the rocket that put Neil Armstrong on the moon, in 1969? Who do we think assembled it? Robots? Scabs? Chinese factory workers?

Apparently, people have forgotten that NASA employed thousands of unionized workers, including members of the IFPTE, IAM, IBEW, UAW, and a dozen other unions. And take the tragic 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center. Every one of those 343 firefighters and paramedics who died heroically was a union member.

While it annoys the hell out of us that Republicans and faux-libertarians vilify labor unions, it doesn’t confuse us. That’s because we realize people who have money want to keep it, which is why they pay their employees as little as possible. Union workers cost more. They cost more and they expect to work with dignity, which is why employers resist them. We may not agree with or respect that view, but we understand it.

But what we don’t understand is why so many regular working people think labor unions are “bad” for America. Even if the “collectivist” aspect of unionism sticks in their craw, you’d think that in a country like ours, with so many ornery people just waiting for an opportunity to rebel, they would rejoice at standing up to their bosses. Instead, they meekly take what’s offered. No wonder the middle-class is shrinking.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), is a former 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:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail