FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fear and Trembling in the Workplace

by

Photo by MN AFL-CIO | CC BY 2.0

One of the most damaging “factoids” you hear around the campfire is the assertion that businesses and corporations are no longer afraid of labor unions. Because unions have grown so weak and decrepit and stupid, no one fears them anymore. Of course, you’re going to hear that from people who despise or resent the American labor movement, but unfortunately, you also hear it from observers who, by their own admission, claim to be “pro-union.”

Consider: If that mindless assertion were true, then two accompanying assertions should also be true.

(1) Management would have no reason to oppose a card-check system (where employees simply fill out a card declaring that they wish to join a union, thus avoiding the arduous and time-consuming NLRB union certification process), and (2) companies wouldn’t need to spend tens of millions of dollars doing everything in their power to keep unions out. After all, if companies had no reason to fear unions, why lift a finger to prevent employees from joining one?

And by the way, the term “factoid” was coined by novelist Norman Mailer in the late 1960s, and first used in his quasi-biography of Marilyn Monroe. The term refers to something that resembles a “fact” but isn’t “factual.” A “factoid” is to a “fact” what a “humanoid” or “android” is to a “human.” But over the years, the media have recast Mailer’s term to mean “mini-fact” or a piece of trivia, which, of course, couldn’t be more wrong.

I had a friend who was the president of a West Coast industrial international union. We were never “buddies,” but during my time as a union activist and polemicist we chatted two or three times a month. We never quarreled. But after I published a couple of less than complimentary articles about the International (nothing vicious, mind you, just some garden variety criticism), he stopped returning my calls. We haven’t spoken in years.

Whenever this union official was asked at social functions what he did for a living he had a perfect answer. He said he “helped working people with any problems they had on the job, such as making sure they weren’t bullied, harassed or treated unfairly, making sure they received any overtime compensation due them, and seeing to it that they got all the health insurance and pension benefits to which they were entitled.”

According to him, people were blown away by this answer. They were astounded by it. They responded by gushing and praising him, blurting out things like, “Wow, man, what a cool job.” Or: “I had no idea there were people who had jobs like that.” Or: “That’s really great! I wish there more people who did that sort of thing, because Lord knows, we could sure use it.” Etc.

But when he finished his explanation by casually noting that he was the president of a labor union, those same people—the same men and women who moments earlier had praised him—almost recoiled in horror. They appeared stricken. He said they looked at him as if he had just confessed to being a pedophile or Jihadist.

Which makes the case that organized labor is desperately in need of a major facelift. The AFL-CIO needs to hire the best public relations firm in the land, pay them what they ask, do exactly as they say, and get busy educating the American public.

It has been said by sociologists and magicians that “perception is everything.” If that’s true, then the AFL-CIO needs to radically alter how this country regards its labor unions, because, clearly, we are losing the battle. We are being perceived poorly.

Tragically, the AFL-CIO refuses to seek outside help. The House of Labor stubbornly chooses to utilize only internal resources, insisting that hiring a big-time public relations firm would be a waste of money, and clinging to the belief that only actual union people know how to promote a union. The AFL-CIO presents that belief as a fact. Alas, there are those who view it as a factoid.

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

February 22, 2018
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
Jeffrey Sommers
Bond Villain in the World Economy: Latvia’s Offshore Banking Sector
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
T.J. Coles
How the US Bullies North Korea, 1945-Present
Ipek S. Burnett
Rethinking Freedom in the Era of Mass Shootings
Manuel E. Yepe
Fire and Fury: More Than a Publishing Hit
Patrick Bobilin
Caught in a Trap: Being a Latino Democrat is Being in an Abusive Relationship
Laurel Krause
From Kent State to Parkland High: Will America Ever Learn?
Terry Simons
Congress and the AR-15: One NRA Stooge Too Many
George Wuerthner
Border Wall Delusions
Manuel García, Jr.
The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change
Thomas Knapp
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail