Culture & Criticism Since 2003
It is a perplexing reality, this state of the labor union in 21st century America. Labor unions? No. These are frail and weak straw men.
Look closely at the random pictures from myriad cities extending coast-to-coast. Look closely: These are no longer unions in any traditional sense. In reality, they are not real united and independent work fronts at all: instead, they serve as nothing more than arms of the corporations from which they should protect the helpless blue-collar bee.
Check out the scene in once strong union towns across America (San Francisco, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh): employee rights and privileges that were fought for over the course of centuries are being sold out so that corporate figureheads can loot companies, fat hogs getting fatter on the backs of the rank and file who create the very products they sell.
And our unions? — instead of implementing safe-guards to stop this horrible cycle, instead of actively destroying the company’s ability to sell their wares, instead of interrupting advertising and attacking brand name power, only rein in the workers, immorally selling out their vital economic interests along the way.
Even the threats to strike seem contrived — almost staged — as 11th hour compromises are reached (compromises that always seems to provide long-range profit healing for the company while workers relinquish salary and healthcare ‘bennies’ drop-by-drop).
In the past, a strike would be the death knell for a business: if workers walked off the job, they took the customer right along with them. In days past, workers would do whatever they had to do (the most effective tactics were to create product boycotts, rendering scab labor moot) in order to keep their job security in tact.
However, these ideals have mysteriously been abandoned. A wonderful concept that grew fragile and fell away like so much dead skin.
But why such a stunning and drastic change? Basically, the element of fear is gone from the relationship between owner and union; now, these entities are more a partnership and less an adversarial brawl. In essence, today’s typical corporation benefits handsomely from the existence of a “union,” since union officers satisfy a real purpose for them: they keep a potential out-of-control work force in line. They corral the electric seed for revolt and quickly diffuse it.
Unions, in this day and age, are watchdogs for management. In actuality, for the meager price of health and retirement contributions, these corporate officers are able to insure that they maintain full and absolute control of their workers through a third party coalition that is the ostensible voice of the employee.
A masterful and ingenious con, indeed.