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Sat Nov 24, 2012, 02:47 PM

I don't know that we have the culture for effective labor organization

What unions and strikes are has fallen so far into the past in America that a refresher might be in order.

The government should, ideally, have almost nothing to do with organized labor. Ideally, labor pressure is something the working class asserts unilaterally.

The idea is that workers have a strong class identification and everyone belongs to their trade union.

Workers at Walmart go on strike and have a picket line.

And nobody in any union crosses that picket line. Voluntarily... they don't do it. I expect Walmart workers to honor my picket line at the tire plant, and visa versa.

The pressure is not that Walmart would have to hire scab employees. Walmart would need to have scab customers. No working person would cross that picket line to shop there.

Ironically, in a class conscious world retail would be the sector most sensitive to organized labor, relying on day-to-day cash flow from working class customers.

The problem was our national grand bargain to restrain communism. (circa 1930-1980) The government co-opted organized labor, creating sector by sector haves and have nots. This divided working people.

And then, when any lurking class consciousness had subsided into the generational past, the original tacit bargain was forgotten and the war on the remaining unions was on.

And someone making $14K couldn't get that excited about someone in a union shop wanting 52K instead of 46K. And some of the union workers voted race over class, voting for Republicans. And some of the union workers never gave a thought to their "brothers" at the stores and restaurants they patronized.

A collapse of class consciousness.

Folks used to set great store in class consciousness. Many socialists believed that World War One couldn't happen because German Workers wouldn't fight French workers for the competing interests of German and French industry. D'oh! History has shown that nationalism, regionalism, religion, race and sex can all trump class in practice.


I am all for labor trying to organize. I root for it. But the best hope of retail and service employees is probably federal law rather than organizational success. I want both, of course. I am just analyzing where and how changes are likeliest to be seen, given our culture, not what should happen.

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