Monday, September 1, 2008


A HARD LABOR DAY’S NIGHT: The old saying goes that a recession is when your neighbor loses her job. A depression is when you lose your job.

But you have to wonder who these workers are who don’t get the meaning behind the bit of obvious absurdity this description of the blind, self-defeating, union-bashing employee depicts

It’s bewildering that there are working people who aren’t smart enough to support- or perhaps even understand- the concept of labor unions.

How dumb can you be to think that you as an individual don’t need the support of your fellow workers to battle the black-hearted, anything-for-a-buck business owners who will take the first opportunity to cut you wages, benefits and your job itself if they think they can squeeze another few bucks in profit from the sweat of your brow.

You hear people complain about union management’s penchant for ripping off their members and point to it as a reason to abandon unions entirely. But that isn’t unique to unions and doesn’t justify throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The real problem lately is that union leadership has been unable or unwilling to treat management as what they are- the enemy.

Because you can bet your non-living-wage that most owners see their employees as enemies.

If we have any criticism of union leadership it’s not that a handful are corrupt. Corruption exists in every hierarchy- power creates it and union are no different than any organization.

The problem is that they see the slimeball owners as some kind of “partner” to be placated with “givebacks” rather than seeing them as the ones who are causing the misery of the underpaid and overworked.

Those that steal from their members are perhaps less troubling then the leaders who think they have a stake in increasing the profits of the individual businesses for which their members work every time book-juggling owners sneeze.

Rather than support only businesses whose business plans provide for living wages and make the continued employment of their workers their first priority, they continue to sell their members down the river in the warped notion that no one would fill the niche of services or products if the boss who is ripping off their workers goes out of business.

But if every single business that doesn’t take care of their workers went out of business and unions worked like they are supposed to- and how they actually worked before anti-union legislation like Taft Hartley was passed- the new businesses with better, employee-centric business plans would take their place and the power of the workers would far outstrip any of the intimidation and union busting activities prevalent in almost every business these days.

Then all businesses would have to be run putting the employees first if they hope to have employees... run even perhaps as– gasp- profit sharing cooperatives

But that would take universal solidarity of workers, a concept that for some self-defeating reason many American workers have abandoned.

The problem is that some people can’t see an inch beyond their immediate self-interest. They’d rather take half of what they merit every day. Though they complain their wages are far lower than what they deserve they continue to be the type of leaches that work non-union jobs while still benefiting from whatever gains unions have bought them.

That insures that they and everyone else will lose the bargaining handle that comes from the unity of every worker.

It’s beyond us what interest workers have in making the profits of business owners higher. The mumbo jumbo of trickle down economics is demonstrably ridiculous.

But that for some reason that doesn’t stop some from working for a income way below what they deserve and need, against their own self interest. They don’t just ignore the benefits of supporting the person working next to them but actively work against their co-worker and in fact themselves.

50-75 years ago when unions were stronger workers at least understood the concept. These days it’s apparent many have become as brain dead as the mule chasing carrots at the end of the stick.

Class war? You bet. Why shy away from it? There’s been a class war against working people ever since workers moved out of the actual slavery of serfdom and indentured servitude into today’s corporate-government coalition’s pseudo-slavery.

No one but the truly deluded or dishonest can deny that the fascist-by-definition coalition of business owners and their lackeys in government keeps getting richer while real earnings continue to drop an average of up to 100% a decade in a display of class war seldom seen in history.

It’s time to fight back because, the lack of vision and shortsightedness of union bashing workers who go it alone notwithstanding, we’re all in this together.


Katy said...

You said it, Andy.

I can't tell you how sad and frustrating it was sometimes when I was a union organizer in the 90's.

I was organizing among some of the poorest workers in the country -broke, country people working in nursing homes and other service jobs in Montana. These were mostly women who worked their asses off and barely earned enough to afford rent on substandard trailer houses through 20-below winters.

And yet, they'd been convinced that working for next to nothing was better than taking the risk of getting fired if they stood up for their rights and formed a collective bargaining unit with their co-workers. And you know what? With labor laws as they are, in some ways I understood it. There is a difference between 5.50 an hour and zero an hour - and I regularly saw workers fired for organizing and the NLRB doing nothing to stop it.

They worked under such wretched and miserable conditions every day and yet it was easier for them to blame their co-workers for their own misery than get angry at the boss - even when they admit they're getting a raw deal.

I can't tell you how many times I stumbled over the mine tailings of the reagan-era anti-union propaganda campaign. "My cousin's husband's sister-in-law's best friend once got fired and the union didn't get her job back for her! They're all crooks!" But somehow, the boss is ripping this same worker off every day and she puts up with it.

And bureaucratized union leadership - what we call the feet-on-the-desk dinosaurs - definitely have to take some of the blame for exactly the kind of business-friendly crap you point out. Not only that, but the way democratic decision-making has been leached away in many unions, as well as the fact that so many unions have forgotten what the labor movement is, has weakened us unnecessarily and tragically.

Much of that can be traced back to the old-style red-baiting.

If we're going to be honest, we have to admit unions were strongest and most effective when they took capitalism on head-on, instead of trying to accomodate.

Yet, with all these troubles and shortcomings, we're lost without unions. We absolutely need them as much as we ever did and don't let anyone tell you that old lie that we don't.

But we better get busy - if we don't change our unions through a renewed worker's movement, we'll lose them altogether, and the boss will laugh all the way to the bank.

KimoRosen said...

Andy, Andy, Andy,

There you go again with your negativity. They say negativity breeds negativity and that is what your blogs are all about.

Try being possitive once in a while..

BTW you need to look at labor from a business owners point of view.

They are risking in many cases all their assets to acheive a dream & goal.

They hire people to help, they create jobs, we need to thank these people, not bash them.

Many times business's loose money and are constantly borrowing just to stay afloat.

There are minimal wage laws in the United states of America and Hawaii.

unless someone is an illegal immigrant or working under the table, people working full time legally have many benefits.

Why do you tink so many people from other countries flock to the US?

I owned many bisiness's when I was younger and worked 24-7, which led to burnout, stresses and a broken relationship for starters.

I moved to Hawaii and starting working for others. It was great not having to worry about the expenses of running a businee and was thankful for what they could afford to pay me, since I knew what it's like being on the other side.

For nstance when an employer pays someone working full time $10.00 and hour, it actually costs more like $15.00 and hour, since the employer must pay, workmans comp, unemployment insurance, medical etc..

You should try putting yourself in the business owners shoes, that's if a guy like you even wears shoes.

God Bless & a Hui Hou, your buddy Kimo

Katy said...

Kimo's right - in fact, we should go back to slavery. It's much more profitable since you don't have to worry about all those costly benefits which were won by the labor movement.

I wonder - the minimum wage might actually cost businesses less than owning slaves, when you pencil out all the costs of feeding and housing slaves. That adds up!

Well,if anyone can figure out the numbers then we would know which is the more business-friendly policy, so we can all support it as a way to thank them for giving us jobs!

KimoRosen said...

Thanks Katy, I knew one of you would eventually agree with me!