FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Not Every Labor Union Is Equal

In the late 1990s, the Human Resource rep at the paper mill where I used to work called me at home (I was the union president) and said she had something very serious to discuss. When I asked for a hint as to what the problem was, so I wouldn’t be blind-sided, she demurred. She said it was something she “wasn’t comfortable” discussing over the phone. That alarmed me.

When I arrived, she told me that someone in the mill had stolen coupons out of several bags of Huggies disposable diapers. What made it a serious offense (not that all theft wasn’t “serious”) was that these Huggies were part of a new product line not scheduled to be introduced in the U.S. for another week. They had been produced at the Ogden, Utah, facility and shipped to our warehouse, awaiting the national roll-out.

The HR rep and I had a decent relationship. Although she viewed me as a radical (I’d once shut the mill down on a 57-day strike), she saw me as a truth-teller. So she asked me point-blank if I knew anything about the theft. This is where it got complicated. Because the mill was a sieve when it came to this sort of thing, I’d already heard a rumor that a woman I’ll call “Linda” had stolen the coupons.

Although theft was universally reviled by the crews, and Linda was, for lots of reasons, generally regarded as “low-class,” it wasn’t my job to act as a union informer or pretend to be a security guard (irony of ironies, over the years, several security guards had been fired for theft).

Given what a sieve that mill was, her next comment shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. “We heard it was Linda X who did it,” she said. “I know you guys have this thing about [air quotes] ‘snitching,’ but I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to get rid of someone like this.” I told her if she thought she knew who did it, then by all means, she should follow up on it. And that was that. I was a union man, not a company spy

Without an eye-witness coming forward or physical evidence implicating her, there was no way Linda was going to get nailed for this. Accordingly, nothing came of it. Angry and frustrated as they were, all that the company could do was move the Huggies from the one-million square foot general warehouse to a more secure location.

However, the theft raised some provocative questions. At the next Executive Board meeting a group of us discussed the ethical differences between “whistle-blowing” and “snitching.” At that E-Board meeting we also learned that there had, indeed, been an eye-witness to the theft, and that it was he who spawned the rumor.

My other reason for not ratting out Linda was simple compassion. I knew the woman personally. I knew her problems. She wasn’t young; she was a grandmother whose daughter, the mother of Linda’s grandchildren, was a mess, a single mother and an addict. Her life was chaos. The last thing Linda needed was to lose her job over a handful of pilfered coupons.

Which brings us to policemen and police unions. This is where our E-Board parted company with the heart-and-soul principle of union “solidarity.” The majority of us agreed that if we were cops, we’d “whistle-blow” every time we saw a fellow cop do anything unworthy of the profession—stealing money, planting evidence, beating a suspect, etc.

Union “brotherhood” or not, we’d blow the whistle on every dirty cop we saw. We’d become well-oiled snitching machines. Why? Because when you carry a badge and a gun, and, literally, have the power of life and death in your hands, you need to be held to a higher standard than a pipe-fitter.

A union that knowingly protects sadistic cops is no better than one that knowingly protects child-molesting teachers. Cops and teachers aren’t factory workers; they aren’t accountants or clerks or book editors. There’s a qualitative and civil difference between policemen and other professions.

There’s also a profound difference between a union “representing” a member who’s been accused of something heinous, and a union knowingly “protecting” a guilty member. And every union rep in America knows the difference. If you want to pretend you can’t see that distinction, then shame on you.

David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”).  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

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

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail