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Sun Apr 29, 2012, 04:47 PM

A facebook friend of mine criticizes unions from the left:

He says, "I have two main complaints about unions. First, they are molded in a corporatists model. Perhaps this is unavoidable as they exist as a response to corporations but it, nonetheless, makes them adversarial, which is unlikely to ever serve workers well. My second problem with the union model is that much like corporations, they tend to be self serving. They compete for turf and most often they throw workers in other countries under the bus. This, in fact, is part of the reason for their decline. Their narrow focus has all too often been to preserve American jobs rather than protecting workers rights. They have failed to adequately demand environmental and social benefits in other countries which would have also served to make our jobs more competitive. They lost sight of the forest for the trees."

Is this too much of a progressive purist point of view? And for disclosure, this friend is a small business owner.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 04:50 PM

1. It's pie in the sky to think that unions could have remolded the Third World by their demands...

 

when they had zero influence over the governments of those countries.

This person is a fantasist or a very cleverly disguised right winger.

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Response to rfranklin (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 04:55 PM

4. I'm pretty sure he's not a winger

I tend to think he sees himself as a progressive philosopher of sorts, though. He's also very critical of President Obama and Democrats in general for not being progressive enough (unicorns and rainbows, etc.) and spouts this purist stuff like this all the time. But we're in Texas, so labor unions are a bit foreign, at least to me.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 04:53 PM

2. A lot of union members vote Republican. Once they've got theirs they are not concerned about

others. That's one of the problems.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 04:55 PM

3. While he's right about the often narrow focus

he's wrong about what unions could actually accomplish in a country that was so hostile to them in the first place.

They did accomplish a lot: vacations, sick leave, overtime pay, the 40 hour week, improvement in overall conditions. However, they lacked the clout to influence people in other countries even with strong outreach programs. People in the developing world were glad to get paid a relative pittance and work long shifts with no benefits because it kept them off the edge of starvation.

People in the developing world are now used to paychecks and would be much more amenable to improving their lot through unionization. As for the environmental concerns, that was our government's job. Tariffs should have been levied against goods produced by massive polluters using near slave labor. But they weren't.

It's hard to say what unions would have accomplished had liberals in this country not lost power in 1969 and never regained it.

However, your friend is blaming unions for things that were beyond their means to accomplish at the time they were trying to accomplish them.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 04:56 PM

5. Good God, unions are SUPPOSED to be self-serving!

Your friend's view ignores a lot of realities.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:04 PM

6. First the outsourcing is because of the 1%

yen for 600% profit , not the Standards and benefits acquired by Unions ,no small business owners or contractors but Unions raise the conditions of World . Corporations would have enslaved us permanently a century ago if it weren't for Unions.Yes some of the justification of the 1% and their heartless tyranny is due to inflationary byproducts of unions , pensions , health care , low productivity and incompetent service.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:13 PM

7. Don't want to burst your bubble, but this is no criticism "from the left":

 

a truly leftist critique of unions would be that they have not been adversarial enough. The point about unions not having a suffciently internationalist perspective is neither right-wing nor left-wing on its surface.

I would classify this as a petit-bourgeois critique of unions.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #7)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:37 PM

9. Well I do think that there needs to be more of an international labor movement...

and I do have problems with our current Union model. For one, I think they are too divided amongst themselves I would like to see a much wider labor movement arise that isn't restricted to any singe industry or even a set of industries. I would like to see something like the IWW gain a strong foothold here. I think the IWW is the best mode for unions to follow, even if they are fairly weak in the U.S. I also think Unions haven't been willing enough to challenge the Democratic Party. A lot of Unions seem to be rather beholden to the Democratic Party, when they should be challenging and pushing the party.

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Response to white_wolf (Reply #9)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:15 PM

11. I agree with most of what you have written. I merely wanted to point out

 

that the criticisms the OP offered were hardly in and of themselves 'leftist.'

To me the principal error of the current labor movement is an excessive preoccupation, imho, with the lobbying\political process, at the expense of organizing new locals and collective bargaining agreements. To wit, union membership has fallen from a high of 30% of households in the 50s to southwards of 14% in 2010.

Given that fundamental weakness, expecting unions to take an internationalist approach when their very existence is under attack seems to be to impose unrealistic expectations upon them.

The key si to ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE! And then organize some more.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:29 PM

8. They aren't always on the side of the greater good

Consider a situation where a police chief fires a cop who had been excessively aggressive?
Then the union bands together to lobby to get rid of the police chief. I understand and value the goal of protecting jobs. On the other hand when a fraternal order of police union is enlisted with a goal that would perpetuate a negative state of affairs... I am not as sympathetic.

This is happening now.

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2012/04/25/local-police-group-calls-removal-chief/

At the same time members of the community are backing him for firing a guy who committed police brutality- even though he was cleared.
It's quite a collision of values.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:42 PM

10. This is BS and is most certainly not a leftist viewpoint -

maybe a liberal viewpoint but it is NOT leftist.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:28 PM

12. Just a personal point of view from my own experience

Unions have been their own worst enemy. I've had to deal with many unions on a professional level for most of my working life. They all suffered the same problem. Membership allowed their elected leadership to serve their own interest rather than that of the membership.
The membership falls prey to the same problem we as citizens allow. Elections are not the be all and end all, it's only the start. Elect someone who purports to represents your interest but ride their ass and make sure they do it.
Rule #1 when people gain a position of power and influence they will do all they can to maximize and continue that position. Doesn't matter if it's unions, government, or corporations. Same story different page.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:38 PM

13. None of that makes any sense to me.

a) unions are supposed to be "adversarial", they fight the owners who never want to serve the workers.

b) preserving jobs *is* protecting worker's rights.

c) unions declined because of off-shoring and factory closures and right-to-work states.

There is always room for constructive criticism, but the US unions are now more progressive than they've been in decades. This is a good time to build bridges.

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Response to sadbear (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:03 PM

14. I think he's saying

in so many words, that there really only needs to be ONE union. You are either a worker or a boss. The Wobblies had it right.

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