Labor Unions Resist Abusive Employers
It is impossible to overstate the importance of old-fashioned “resistance.” Without resistance, things can get out of hand very quickly.
Take the schoolyard bully, for example. The thing that keeps bullies going is that no one resists them. No one is willing to fight back – either by instantly reporting them to the teacher or by punching them right in the snotbox. Experience has taught us that when you appease a bully, two things happen, both of them bad: the bully continues his dominance, and his bullying becomes more frequent and ambitious.
I recently read a story on the topic of worker victimization. The article pointed out that employers now believe that they are firmly in the drivers seat, that the economy has become such a lopsided “buyer’s market” that they can now force their employees to do anything they wish. After all, who is going to stop them?
Sadly, the robber barons have won. They’ve increased their production demands, they’ve extended work hours, they issue ultimatums (if you don’t like it here, quit), and they’ve done all of this while keeping wages stagnant. And traditional benefits like pensions, bonuses, sick leave, and paid vacations – forget about it. Most of those have been abolished.
Things in America have shifted dramatically. Companies are now running over employees: not those in upper management, mind you, and not those with fancy college degrees, but regular people, those with a high school diploma who just want to work for a living, and are fully aware that they have “jobs” rather than “careers.”
Companies electronically time bathroom breaks, they electronically measure your output, they spy on you with cameras, they force you to attend meetings and film you as you listen, and they send out emails threatening to fire you if you show up late. Things have shifted dramatically; management now expects to run the table every time they pick up a pool cue.
Which brings us to the role of labor unions. It’s no accident that this draconian work environment coincides with a drop in union membership. It’s no accident and no coincidence, because the one thing that a labor union brings to the workplace is resistance – in the form of worker representation and adult supervision.
A union contract requires a company to follow certain rules. And despite all of their crying, if management didn’t fully understand the rules and, in truth, didn’t see the basic fairness and wisdom in them, they wouldn’t have signed the contract in the first place.
Yes, union jobs pay about 15 percent higher wages and benefits, and yes, union safety programs are vastly superior to non-union programs, and these by themselves are tremendous advantages to becoming a union member. But a union also offers something less tangible. A union contract provides a worker with dignity – with the expectation of coming to work and being treated with respect. And that is no small thing.
If anyone is able to name another institution that can provide America’s working class with the built-in dignity and economic advantages that a union can, I’d love to hear it, because it ain’t the federal government and it ain’t charity organizations. This is all about resistance. Without resistance workers have no leverage. Resistance is everything. And without strong labor unions, the bullies will continue to win.