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Sat Dec 29, 2012, 08:14 AM

Are We Approaching the Twilight of the Labor Movement? | Common Dreams

By now, most people realize that private sector union membership in the U.S. stands at about 7-percent, which means that 93-percent of all private sector jobs are non-union. Which makes those accusations of unions of being “too big” and “too powerful” even more ridiculous and hysterical than they were when private sector membership was only a meager 10-percent

Yet, even with these depressingly low membership numbers, if America’s non-union workers rooted for unions to succeed, and, indeed, aspired to join a union themselves, it would mean, at least in theory, that the labor movement was alive and well and had a decent chance of succeeding.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Alas, too many non-union workers not only don’t admire or respect labor unions, they hate them. They fear them. They resent them. It’s as if America’s corporate masters had gathered all the underpaid, under-benefited non-union workers together in the same room, and done some hideous Manchurian Candidate brain-washing number on them, convincing them that they could trust the profit-motive more than they could trust a workers collective.

As a college student, I worked part-time as a breakfast cook. I’m not exaggerating when I say that, back in those days, it was the dream of every cook to get a job in a union manufacturing plant. That was their life’s goal. These guys didn’t dream of being millionaires or lottery winners or entrepreneurs; they dreamed of working in an industrial setting where the wages, benefits, and working conditions were union-scale.

Which is why it’s so disappointing to see the antipathy directed toward unions today. One objection is that unions are “corrupt.” That assertion has always puzzled me. Are people confusing ineptitude, laziness, and lack of imagination with “corruption,” because I’ve never seen any evidence of widespread corruption, certainly not enough to damage labor’s reputation. Are these people locked into some sort of time-warp, where they still imagine seeing newsreel footage of union honchos doing the perp-walk? Those days are over.

Another objection is that workers shouldn’t be forced to join a union or forced to pay dues. That one not only puzzles me, it irritates me. You hire into a union shop because the wages and benefits are roughly 15-percent better than non-union facilities, and yet you balk at having to embrace the very organization that made those wages and benefits possible? Several words come to mind: hypocrite, freeloader, ingrate.

In an odd way, the resentment at being “forced” to join a union (despite its obvious advantages) reminds me of the South’s resistance to desegregation. Southerners wouldn’t accept the fact that the federal government could tell a restaurant owner in Alabama that he no longer had the right to choose whom he could and couldn’t serve. Even though the restaurant was private property, his “Whites Only” signs had to come down. It was a concept people couldn’t absorb. Perhaps that same mind-set applies to union membership.

This classic labor vs. management adversarial relationship has been in place in the U.S. ever since the mid-19th century, and has existed in Europe for even longer. Because everything and everyone—the Congress, the media, the police, the banks, the Church, the city fathers—were arrayed against the unions, it was a constant struggle, and any progress labor made came at a steep price.

But the one enduring resource unions could always count on—the one built-in advantage they had—was the support of working men and women. And that was because workers felt they were all pretty much in the same boat. Moreover, it was this grassroots, across-the-board solidarity that management most feared because they had no way of combating it, other than by giving workers a larger slice of the pie.

And this is what makes the current anti-unionism so disturbing. Despite statistics clearly showing that the middle-class is losing more ground every year, the average worker, for whatever reason, continues to place more faith in the generosity and infallibility of the so-called “free market” than he does in the only lobbying organization working people have ever had. It’s like one of those old cowboy movies, but one where the Indians trust the cavalry more than their own tribe.

If the support of decent, hard-working men and women continues to evaporate, it means we’re sunk. Simple as that. It means Corporationism has not only won the battle, but the war. And who knows? Maybe this thing is already over. Maybe organized labor is walking around zombie-like, unaware that it’s America’s Undead.

Originally Published here: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/27-4

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Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply Are We Approaching the Twilight of the Labor Movement? | Common Dreams (Original post)
geefloyd46 Dec 2012 OP
RKP5637 Dec 2012 #1
jimlup Dec 2012 #2
catbyte Dec 2012 #3
RKP5637 Dec 2012 #4
madrchsod Dec 2012 #6
MAD Dave Dec 2012 #5
madrchsod Dec 2012 #7
yurbud Jan 2013 #8

Response to geefloyd46 (Original post)

Sat Dec 29, 2012, 08:25 AM

1. American workers are bred to be brainwashed and to be led by the nose. Most don't have the guts to

stand up for unions as when the union movement began.

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Response to geefloyd46 (Original post)

Sat Dec 29, 2012, 08:29 AM

2. I've felt for awhile that this is the case

But I've also thought that the labor movement and labor in general needs to retrench. A new worker movement wider in scope than the labor movement could be the progressive direction if we choose it.

Yes, I believe we've lost this battle. But it is incorrect to say that we've "lost the war."

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Response to geefloyd46 (Original post)

Sat Dec 29, 2012, 08:33 AM

3. I am afraid so, until working conditions become insufferable enough for workers

to rise up again. It's sad, unnecessary, and traceable to Ronald Reagan. Just one of the ways he supplied the building blocks for the destruction of the American economy we see today.

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Response to catbyte (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 29, 2012, 08:45 AM

4. Yep!!! n/t

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Response to catbyte (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 29, 2012, 09:47 AM

6. actually jimmy carter was the first to deregulate....

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Response to geefloyd46 (Original post)

Sat Dec 29, 2012, 09:23 AM

5. True in Canadan too!

My wife and I have never had the opportunity to work in a unionized workplace. We both have been subjected to the types do mistreatment a well organized union can help prevent.

My wife has been sexually harassed. When she brought it to the attention of her manager he said he'd take care of it. He promoted the perpetrator!

I was recently dismissed without being given any reason. This too would likely not have happened in a unionized environment.

I too am afraid that working conditions are going to deteriorate significantly before we reorganize and reinvigorate the labor movement.

I am sincerely concerned about the working environments that my children will inherit.

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Response to geefloyd46 (Original post)

Sat Dec 29, 2012, 09:54 AM

7. bullshit and the author knows this

organized labor is walking around zombie like? that is a big ass truck load of bullshit.

i won`t comment any further cause i`d get a time out.

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Response to geefloyd46 (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 08:34 AM

8. dues objection always irritated me: I did the same job part time at a union & non-union job...

at the same time.

The difference in pay alone was enough that the dues were covered the first two hours of work every month and the difference for the rest of the month went into my pocket--and it was a difference of $20 an hour.

When I became a union officer, I quickly realized how much more members would GET if dues were higher. Quite frankly, we are outbid in the race to buy politicians and air time for our issues.

If people thought of union dues as an investment and looked at what they got for it, they would see things quite differently.

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