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Five reasons people hate unions (a response to union-bashing)

Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

Desmond Cole tells it like it is. :D

(I have no idea who Desmond is, just found the link on Facebook, but I love him already and will be reading his blog regularly now!)

 


Comments

ennir
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Joined: Feb 8 2009

LOL

Down with unions!

I recall being part of a demonstration at a Wal-Mart and most folks were fine but there were a few shoppers who were hostile, too funny I thought, don't they realize that the fact they shop there shows that they are someone who would benefit from a union? Perhaps I am wrong though, perhaps the wealthy shop at Wal-Mart too.  LOL

Unfortunately it is an indication of how successful the anti-union movement has been.

The steps that are being taken now to destroy trade unions are blatant, it is clear that there is an effort to phase skilled tradesmen out and replace them with individuals who are taught to do simple tasks, after all you don't really need a carpenter capable of mathematics and buidling a whole staircase when you can replace that with a minimum wage laborer that simply cut pieces as ordered to.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

ennir wrote:

Unfortunately it is an indication of how successful the anti-union movement has been.

No it isn't. To destroy unions, governments have to enact laws making it increasingly difficult for a group of workers to unionize (look at Ontario in the 90s, and Saskatchewan today), while giants like Wal-Mart have to close stores down to crush the union. It's not the reluctance of the weak and oppressed that is hurting unions.

Quote:
The steps that are being taken now to destroy trade unions are blatant, it is clear that there is an effort to phase skilled tradesmen out and replace them with individuals who are taught to do simple tasks, after all you don't really need a carpenter capable of mathematics and buidling a whole staircase when you can replace that with a minimum wage laborer that simply cut pieces as ordered to.

What does the phenomenon you describe have to do with the need for unions? Unless you're referring to the word "trade" union in its 100-year-old sense of skilled trades. That kind of union was challenged and defeated in North America in the 1930s with the growth of the industrial union movement. Technological change makes production simpler and reduces the need for large numbers of skilled artisans. That's just a fact of life. But surely the "minimum wage labourer" needs to be unionized even more than the skilled tradesperson she replaced.

 


Jacob Richter
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Joined: Oct 19 2008

That's funny, Unionist.  I think you were referring to craft unionism that was defeated (I think "trade" referred to the output of a particular company).  In any event, not so, unfortunately.  Professional associations of doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc. who all have powerful lobbyists are in fact modern-day craft unions that have gained the upper hand on the most spineless tred-iunionizm and the more militant "red" industrial unionism.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Jacob, I know they were craft unions - I was just trying to sort out ennir's confusion where she speaks of the attacks against "trade unions" and the elimination of "skilled trades". In fact, the elimination of craft unions witnessed the vast expansion of unions, once they began to organize the masses of semi-skilled and unskilled. Of course, since WWII, they have suffered attack both externally and internally, and in the U.S. most starkly, have become an ideological and numerical shadow of their former self.

I'm not sure why you speak of professional associations. They have nothing to do with this discussion. Their members are for the most part (though not exclusively) non-employees. And I wouldn't exaggerate their powerful lobbyists too much. They're not the ones who rule our society, although they are most often inclined to serve the rulers loyally.

ETA: By the way, Jacob, forgot to mention that you're wrong about the word "trade". It means the trade of the worker, not of the business. That's where the terms "skilled trade" and "tradesperson" come from. Trade unions and craft unions were historically one and the same thing. When the precursors of industrial unions came along, they prided themselves on organizing workers "across trade lines" or "regardless of trade".


triciamarie
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Joined: Jul 28 2006

*sigh*

I wonder why it is so difficult for so many to express support of organized labour in positive terms.

Here we have a thread title (taken from the blog itself), in the labour forum, purporting to provide a list of reasons to hate unions. Would that kind of premise be acceptable in the feminism forum -- five reasons to hate women? What about in the anti-racism forum -- five reasons to hate Muslims?

The blog entry itself is supposed to be sarcasm of course, but these are real objections that real people do actually hold. I guess that's what's supposed to make it funny. But this, for example:

Quote:
Think of the noble Wal-mart shopping cart wrangler: loyally supporting her employer by shopping exclusively at Wal-mart, using breaks to scour the parking lot for half-scratched Keno tickets, smiling that charming, toothless smile as I pass. Who would interfere with this humble existence?

feels distinctly unfunny to me, in reference to this:

 

Quote:
classist (e.g. poor-bashing) and other excluding language is not appropriate on babble.

Sorry to be a wet blanket but that's my 2 cents.


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

That's true, about the toothless smile, although I think they were probably referring to the person having no dental benefits or money to see the dentist. 

It's a sarcastic response to the union bashing that's going on in the media and call-in shows and the comments of online news media.  I enjoyed it a lot.  As for the title, well, I would have no problem with someone posting a similar article with that title in the feminism forum, as long as it was clear (as it is in this case) that it's not an invitation for people to create their own serious lists of why they hate feminists.


ennir
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Joined: Feb 8 2009

Unionist wrote:

ennir wrote:

Unfortunately it is an indication of how successful the anti-union movement has been.

No it isn't. To destroy unions, governments have to enact laws making it increasingly difficult for a group of workers to unionize (look at Ontario in the 90s, and Saskatchewan today), while giants like Wal-Mart have to close stores down to crush the union. It's not the reluctance of the weak and oppressed that is hurting unions.

Quote:
The steps that are being taken now to destroy trade unions are blatant, it is clear that there is an effort to phase skilled tradesmen out and replace them with individuals who are taught to do simple tasks, after all you don't really need a carpenter capable of mathematics and buidling a whole staircase when you can replace that with a minimum wage laborer that simply cut pieces as ordered to.

What does the phenomenon you describe have to do with the need for unions? Unless you're referring to the word "trade" union in its 100-year-old sense of skilled trades. That kind of union was challenged and defeated in North America in the 1930s with the growth of the industrial union movement. Technological change makes production simpler and reduces the need for large numbers of skilled artisans. That's just a fact of life. But surely the "minimum wage labourer" needs to be unionized even more than the skilled tradesperson she replaced.

 

Hostility towards unions by those who would benefit from unions seems to me an example of a successful strategy on the part of the anti-union movement. 

And yes, Saskatchewan today.

When I say trade unions I am talking about those with trades such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and more and what I mean is that those individuals who are journeyman workers have the knowledge of the battles fought to achieve decent wages, they are skilled and they are aware that their labour produces wealth.  This is very different than the direction that we would be taken in by those who wish to set the agenda, they would have us limit the skills we develop and never know that labour produces wealth.

 


Jacob Richter
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Joined: Oct 19 2008

Unionist wrote:

Jacob, I know they were craft unions - I was just trying to sort out ennir's confusion where she speaks of the attacks against "trade unions" and the elimination of "skilled trades". In fact, the elimination of craft unions witnessed the vast expansion of unions, once they began to organize the masses of semi-skilled and unskilled. Of course, since WWII, they have suffered attack both externally and internally, and in the U.S. most starkly, have become an ideological and numerical shadow of their former self.

I'm not sure why you speak of professional associations. They have nothing to do with this discussion. Their members are for the most part (though not exclusively) non-employees. And I wouldn't exaggerate their powerful lobbyists too much. They're not the ones who rule our society, although they are most often inclined to serve the rulers loyally.

The "simple majority" of those in such professional associations are in fact workers, albeit with a significant minority of petit-bourgeoisie and coordinators (non-executive managers).  They do, however, act in a craft manner.

Quote:
ETA: By the way, Jacob, forgot to mention that you're wrong about the word "trade". It means the trade of the worker, not of the business. That's where the terms "skilled trade" and "tradesperson" come from. Trade unions and craft unions were historically one and the same thing. When the precursors of industrial unions came along, they prided themselves on organizing workers "across trade lines" or "regardless of trade".

I stand corrected, then.


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Michelle wrote:

It's a sarcastic response to the union bashing that's going on in the media and call-in shows and the comments of online news media.

That's certainly the way that I read the piece.  But, that's the danger of irony.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

Well, I changed the title so it would be more clear, anyhow. :)


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

People hate unions because they work. They improve the lives of workers and those who are not a part of one have less.

The better solution would be to have all labour unionized.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Yessssssssss!

 


Caissa
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Joined: Jun 14 2006

A weekend of intense bargaining has produced "the basis for a deal" that could bring a swift end the strike by municipal workers in Canada's largest city.

At an early morning news conference, CUPE Local 416 president Mark Ferguson announced that although "we still have to put the final pieces together," union negotiators "have the basis for a deal."

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2009/07/27/toronto-strike.html

B9sus4
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Joined: Jul 18 2009

"When I say trade unions I am talking about those with trades such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and more and what I mean is that those individuals who are journeyman workers have the knowledge of the battles fought to achieve decent wages, they are skilled and they are aware that their labour produces wealth."

I wish, I wish, I wish! The kids today know don't know shit from shinola about labour history. Nor do they care! They get all their thinking done for them by the stinking Province "news"paper and the worst smelling TV channels. They watch scum like Lou Dobbs and that other crybaby and they buy it. All they know of unionism is what the corporate fascists tell them. I recently had the odious experience of trying to tell a young worker about the banksters and the ongoing collapse of the global economy and having him go off on me: scream and yell and call me a "conspiracy theorist"! Now he never misses an opportunity in group environments to sneer that I'm a tin-foil-hat wearing loony. No shit. 

Sad part, he's a smart a young fellow (as far as it goes) and an excellent tradesman. I was instrumental in getting him his current position. But.. not an ounce of gratitude, of course. That's "old school", ie., sort of thing that "conspiracy theorists" do, I guess. That's the way they're taught now by the corporate whore media: emulate the disgusting, insane selfishness of the ruling class. Unfortunately, unionism to a huge number of younger workers means nothing else except a gimmick to get more money for them, and fuck everybody else. This is why as soon as they can they jump to management, licking and sucking all the way!

Of course, I'm just a bitter, tired old man. I suppose I should get a bigger tin-foil-hat. Maybe a tin-foil-sombrero?


Jacob Richter
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Joined: Oct 19 2008

Back in the 19th century and early 20th century, trade unions were in fact an alliance of the employed and the unemployed.  They were not infected with collective bargainism for the immediate section of the working class that they represented - tred-iunionizm - and they provided social services to the unemployed as well as to the employed.


munroe
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Joined: Jun 10 2007

Still do, Jacob.  I spent almost half my time as a Rep trying to help out the unorganised and unemployed with the paltry protections they "enjoy".


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

And Jacob, unions used to provide many services (health benefits, pensions, death benefits, etc.) which ultimately were bargained to be provided by the employer or else became social programs provided by the government. I have no problem with criticisms of the union movement, especially those indicating where we have to advance - but please recognize the advances already made by workers.

 


mahmud
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Joined: May 14 2008

 

I do not like and do not support public service unions in capitalist societies. I consider the workers they represent a part of the oppressive state apparutus that marginalizes and exploits (the rest of) the workforce, women, the poor, immigrants, consumers and what have you.


triciamarie
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Joined: Jul 28 2006

Hey! I resemble that statement.

Seriously though, I daresay that most of my clients, and the many others I have tried to help outside of working hours, would strongly disagree with your opinion.

I support the right of all working people to join together to negotiate the conditions under which they sell their labour.


Jacob Richter
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Joined: Oct 19 2008

Unionist wrote:
And Jacob, unions used to provide many services (health benefits, pensions, death benefits, etc.) which ultimately were bargained to be provided by the employer or else became social programs provided by the government. I have no problem with criticisms of the union movement, especially those indicating where we have to advance - but please recognize the advances already made by workers.

Those are the very "social services" that I mentioned.  Tred-iunionizm (*) also happens to be a symptom of the other division of labour not mentioned in capitalist discourse: the social division of labour.

With the services becoming social programs, trade unions could "specialize" in collective bargaining machinery, or business unionism.

* Again, please note that I'm not using English here, so this means something more sinister but also something that you know by experience.


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

How do transit workers and garbage collectors oppress people in society, mahmud?

I can see how the argument could be made that public sector workers in positions of authority over marginalized populations are part of the "oppressive state apparatus", but the fact is, they're also workers themselves.  In fact, I think it's important that unions, especially public sector unions, stand in solidarity with the rest of the workers in society.

Also, huge numbers of public sector workers are not in positions of authority over anyone.  I understand the argument that those who are should not be able to unionize (e.g. soldiers, police).  I'm not sure that I agree with it, but I understand the argument being made.  But I don't think you can just make a blanket statement about ALL public service workers exercising such authority, or that their positions are inherently oppressive.


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

FYI, for true neopytes try ... Why Unions Matter by Labour Studies Prof. Michael Yates.

a reviewer wrote:
Michael D. Yates shows why unions still matter. Unions mean better pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members; they force employers to treat employees with dignity and respect; and at their best, they provide a way for workers to make society both more democratic and egalitarian. Yates uses simple language, clear data, and engaging examples to show why workers need unions, how unions are formed, how they operate, how collective bargaining works, the role of unions in politics, and what unions have done to bring workers together across the divides of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.

The new edition not only updates the first, but also examines the record of the New Voice slate that took control of the AFL-CIO in 1995, the continuing decline in union membership and density, the Change to Win split in 2005, the growing importance of immigrant workers, the rise of worker centers, the impacts of and labor responses to globalization, and the need for labor to have an independent political voice. This is simply the best introduction to unions on the market.

 


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

Even labour leaders sometimes drink the capitalist coolaid. I listened to Steelworker staffer Leo Gerard contrast white collar workers to blue collar workers like (himself and) his membership ... just like the boss would discuss the subject. With an eye to divide workers and set one group against the other. Remarkable, if disgraceful.


mahmud
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Joined: May 14 2008

"How do transit workers and garbage collectors oppress people in society, mahmud?" _Michelle

In a capitalist society, the role of the state is made residual in that it takes over activities -such as garbage collection and transit system- that are not lucrative to the private sector in order to tone down individualistic/egocentric nature of capitalism and perpetuate such oppressive system. The capitalist state conducts these activities mucg less to serve the public than to prevent, social unrest and ensure the "proper" conditions for the perpetuation of capitalism.

We have capitalists over-produce refuse -for their own profits- and have garbage collection to pick up the pieces, and the cycle is repeating itself. And when unions go on strike it is surely not to sham the capitalism caused mess and mass of garbage, but to bargain for benefits for its members .. to keep the cycle going. In fact one could safely argue that garbage collectors' unions wish garbae production get more consideralbe for their business to further flourish.

 

 

 


genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

mahmud wrote:

"How do transit workers and garbage collectors oppress people in society, mahmud?" _Michelle

In a capitalist society, the role of the state is made residual in that it takes over activities -such as garbage collection and transit system- that are not lucrative to the private sector in order to tone down individualistic/egocentric nature of capitalism and perpetuate such oppressive system. The capitalist state conducts these activities mucg less to serve the public than to prevent, social unrest and ensure the "proper" conditions for the perpetuation of capitalism.

If these utilities are not lucrative or potentially lucrative, why is there such a push to privatize them in recent years?

And I will agree with you that the state does do things to blunt the impacts of capitalism, but these were mostly things which were fought for and won in a period where there was a revolutionary movement or at least the potential threat of one which was able to intimidate the state.  These bits of socialized assets outside of the hands of capitalists are able to provide services and improve our quality of life (although often they are run according to capitalist logic by a state which can be distant and unresponsive to people's needs).  These concessions should be defended, as the most brutal state short of fascism isn't the one which provides public services, it is the one which throws workers to the dogs of an incredibly brutal capitalist system without any sort of safety net or public services.

But as anarchists, we are going to gain absolutely zero credibility among anyone and will continue to be stuck in this subcultural punk ghetto if we argue against these concessions (public services and social programs) and for throwing the people clinging to the edge of the Keynesian frying pan into the fires of neoliberalism just to make them miserable in the hopes they rebel.

But this is just the views of one anarchist public sector worker.

mahmud wrote:
We have capitalists over-produce refuse -for their own profits- and have garbage collection to pick up the pieces, and the cycle is repeating itself. And when unions go on strike it is surely not to sham the capitalism caused mess and mass of garbage, but to bargain for benefits for its members .. to keep the cycle going. In fact one could safely argue that garbage collectors' unions wish garbae production get more consideralbe for their business to further flourish.

No one goes on strike with the demand of "get rid of capitalism, please", because that is not a strike they're going to win anytime soon.  Even the IWW in its heydey went on strike mainly to improve the dreadful working conditions at the time.


genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

mahmud wrote:
I do not like and do not support public service unions in capitalist societies. I consider the workers they represent a part of the oppressive state apparutus that marginalizes and exploits (the rest of) the workforce, women, the poor, immigrants, consumers and what have you.

I should add, why target the public sector workers who have very little control over their workplaces?

Furthermore, if we are to judge workers as to whether they are worthy of the benefits of a union based on our judgements of where they work, is the "oppressive state apparatus" any less evil than GM - the company responsible for the Hummer?  Or what about Caterpillar - should we support their strike-breaking and moving production to states with lower labour standards because they sold D9s to the IDF?  Should we also be opposing workers in the "oppressive capitalist system" as well?

Of course not - public sector workers are workers just like any other, and should have the same rights to form unions as any other workers.  The only part where you might have a point (and even that is open to debate) are for things like police unions.


Merryblue
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Joined: May 10 2001

Unions are supposed to be on the side of the angels against the crass greed, meanness and stupidity of most employers.  (All too many employers wind up ruining their own companies, judging by the bankruptcy records).  However, today's working class in general is largely an apathetic, ignorant, self-centred and brainwashed lot. Union leaders are no exception. What changed since the start of unions? The quality of the education in our schools went sharply downhill.  Also, with better wages and safety conditions, the Working Class grew too content and philosophically and intellectually lazy.  They even stopped thinking of themselves as the Working Class.  After 1980, there seemed to be a growing reluctance of union leaders to allocate union monies for education of union people about unions and how and why they came to be. So union members fell into the seductive trap of "investments" and illusory "profits".  With the cultivation of greed, the working stiffs became reluctant to disturb their investments in capitalistic ventured.  Green had taken hold.  Growing stupidity and cowardice were the results.  Strange things began to happen.  Buzz Hargrove promoted the Liberals who decimated unemployment insurance so that only 30% of the unemployed can claim it.  Union leaders everywhere conspired with management high-paid lawyers to "save as many jobs as possible" instead of changing our economic system so that our jobs wouldn't go to offshore sweatshops.  Union leaders settled for 2-tiered salaries in the workplace and this does nothing but split up union solidarity.  Union cowardice has arisen. No one wants to risk going to jail anymore!  Worse, Union leaders plot with the skanks of business to invest Working Opportunity Funds and pensions in non-union-friendly and unenvironmentally-friendly "enterprises" who donate money to political parties antagonistic to the Working Class. Worst of all, the workers consider themselves little capitalists, rather than socially and economically egalitarian activists.  They don't even go to union meetings.  Sports and the shapes of females seem to dominate their thoughts-- indicative of a systematic dumbing down of the population since 1970s.  One prof wrote that First Year students these days produce work at the level of Grade 9 or 10 at best.  If we are going to change things for the better any time soon, we need to get people to learn how to think critically once again.  Critical thought has to be taught somehow, somewhere---for the schools aren't doing it.  In fact, everyone's going backwards.  They think slowly.  Too slowly.  So slowly, in fact, that they print everything and only have time for their own thoughts--not anyone else's.  They don't think things through all the way. 

 


mahmud
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Joined: May 14 2008

I fully agree with Merryblue. Such are our north American unions..

And would like to add:

In Europe, France in particular, unions are still "supportable". They can -and especially they do- paralyze the country upon a call for a general strike and bring the system on its knees.

To Genstrike: GM does not legislate laws that affects citizens, the state does, laws and policies and rules enforced by the epublic sector.  GM does not have a monopoly, one can boycot it and use a bike, a horse, a scooter or buy from another manufacturer.

The public service is the repository of the state's secrets about its injustices and oppressive practices.  A simple example activists with the poor would recall. How open are the policies, procedures and guidelines of Ontario Works and ODSP to the beneficiaries? Once upon a time, it took OCAP and some good public nurses running the streets informing homeless people that thy may be eligible for extra benefits to fight malnutrition: A secret well kept by he state, its public servants and their unions.


Unionist
Online
Joined: Dec 11 2005

Merryblue wrote:
  However, today's working class in general is largely an apathetic, ignorant, self-centred and brainwashed lot. Union leaders are no exception.

You've obviously never dirtied your fingers in a factory. If you had, you would understand that the humblest worker is more engaged, knowledgeable, selfless, and skeptical than a supercilious blowhard like you could ever imagine, let alone become.

mahmud wrote:
I fully agree with Merryblue. Such are our north American unions..

Reminds me of one of my favourite T-shirt slogans:

"If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong."

What a fine-looking couple!

 


mahmud
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Joined: May 14 2008

Unionist 

I wish you had given your thoughts on what is said not your assessment of the authors. By the way, could you tell me when was the last general strike in Canada? Well, I forget, everything has been dandy for workers!


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