• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Do Union Members Make the Best Workers?

Of all the obnoxious myths about labor unions (e.g., they’re too strong, they’re too weak, they’re mobbed-up, they’re anachronistic, they’re undemocratic, etc.) the one that most rankles is the claim that union members don’t make good employees because, being protected by a big, bad labor union, they have no incentive to work.

People with even a modicum of common sense have to see how absurd that premise is.  Jobs in the community that pay the highest wages, offer the best fringe benefits, and provide the safest and most comfortable working conditions (in other words, union jobs) are going to attract the best people, the most qualified people.  How could it be otherwise?

In truth, based on everything I’ve personally seen and heard, I’ve always been stunned by the converse of that dubious claim.  I’ve always been impressed by how hard union people were willing to work, especially on those occasions where slacking off, taking a breather, or flat-out throwing in the towel would’ve made far more sense.

Take for example the graveyard shift of Kimberly-Clark’s tissue converting (Kleenex) department in Fullerton, California.  These folks worked like demons, like frenetic, crazy people, doing everything in their power to keep the machines running—up to and including violating department safety rules.

Mind you, no one would have been reprimanded or even frowned upon for having succumbed to human nature and allowed a distressed production line to shut down as a result of a plug-up or other mechanical malfunction.  No one would have uttered a peep.  Fear of punishment didn’t factor into the equation.

Nor did personal gain.  These were hourly workers who received the identical pay whether the production line was cranking out product at 260 clips (boxes of Kleenex) per minute, or whether the machinery was lying there cold and eerily silent, dead in the water.  It all paid the same.

Moreover, there were no bonuses for record runs, no commissions, no incentive pay, no extra money of any kind.  The crews could set a shift production record, a department record, a corporate record, and receive no more compensation for the hours they worked than had the machine lain idle for that entire period.

Given that there were no incentives and no fear of punishment, why were these people—men and women, young and old, white, black and Latino—willing to sweat their rear ends off at three o’clock in the morning to keep the production line running?  Because they were good workers—workers who would be attracted to a job that offers exemplary wages, benefits and working conditions, which is to say a union job.

So how did the bizarre myth of substandard union workers ever get started?  Presumably, it was invented and circulated by anti-union people looking to undermine organized labor—undermine it the same way virulent anti-government people try to undermine the feds by portraying them as predatory and destructive.

Consider another myth, the one Sarah Palin is peddling.  Palin has gained a following by regularly lambasting the federal government as inefficient, intrusive and wasteful.  In her Alaskan hillbilly twang, she intones, “The government isn’t the solution; the government is the problem!”  Catchy as those that slogan is, Palin must know that her state receives the highest per capita amount of federal aid in the nation.

Like the myth of substandard union workers, Alaska’s image of flinty self-reliance is fake.  Despite the pseudo-libertarian gibberish, it couldn’t survive without federal assistance.  Indeed, Alaska  is to the U.S. government what Albania used to be to the USSR:  A client state.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

WORDS THAT STICK
?

 

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 23, 2019
Kenneth Surin
Western China and the New Silk Road
W. T. Whitney
Stirrings of Basic Change Accompany Protests in Haiti
Louisa Willcox
Inviting the Chief of the Grizzlies to Our Feast
Jonathan Cook
The Democrats Helped Cultivate the Barbarism of ISIS
Dave Lindorff
Military Spending’s Out of Control While Slashing It Could Easily Fund Medicare for All
John Kendall Hawkins
With 2020 Hindsight, the Buffoonery Ahead
Jesse Hagopian
The Chicago Teachers Strike: “Until We Get What Our Students Deserve”
Saad Hafiz
America’s Mission to Remake Afghanistan Has Failed
Victor Grossman
Thoughts on the Impeachment of Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Celebrity Protesters and Extinction Rebellion
John Horning
Spotted Owls and the National Christmas Tree
Dave Lindorff
Moment of Truth on Military Spending in the NY Times
October 22, 2019
Gary Leupp
The Kurds as U.S. Sacrificial Lambs
Robert Fisk
Trump and the Retreat of the American Empire
John Feffer
Trump’s Endless Wars
Marshall Auerback
Will the GOP Become the Party of Blue-Collar Conservatism?
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Dean Baker
Trump Declares Victory in China Trade War
Patrick Bond
Bretton Woods Institutions’ Neoliberal Over-Reach Leaves Global Governance in the Gutter
Robert Hunziker
XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency
John W. Whitehead
Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World Partnership for Ecopolitical Health and Security
Binoy Kampmark
The Decent Protester: a Down Under Creation
Frances Madeson
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Police Violence
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Challenges Logging and Burning Project in Methow Valley
Chelli Stanley
Change the Nation You Live In
Elliot Sperber
Humane War 
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail