Monday, February 26, 2018

Unions: You Had to Be There

There are two reasons why unions are on the run in the U.S. One, of course, is the largely successful campaign by corporate America to weaken and destroy them. This has grown in intensity even as the power of unions has diminished. It has succeeded because of the huge funds expended on it and because people who preach against inequality don't really believe in having a strong voice for the working people in this country.

This is written as it looks like the Supreme Court, probably by a 5-4 vote, will end the fair-share rules that enable unions to collect from workers in unionized workplaces who want to be free riders. Too many people--rarely those who have ever worked in a union environment--think this is a free-speech issue. It isn't. It is part of a steady campaign by Republicans on behalf of their donors to wipe out unions.

The people who aren't working class--middle managers, academics, intellectuals--all kinds of people who think they are superior to working people, they talk about doing something about inequality but they won't defend the one institution that did the most to make this country less unequal. And it's because they, most of the Democratic Party, all of them from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders, didn't find time to support unions and still haven't come forward now that the Supreme Court majority of reactionaries is about to do them in, that we are in this situation.

You haven't seen any newspaper editorials because media barons hate unions. There used to be powerful ones in the newspaper business and the barons have eventually kicked them out or weakened them. The Washington Post had a bad pressmen's strike years ago and has been anti-union ever since. The New York Times has never had a good word to say about unions nor have their "liberal" columnists.

Yes, I grew up in a family imbued with unions. I almost think you had to in order to recognize what they have done for middle America. No wonder the union members often turned to Trump: he meant none of his promises but he was the only candidate who bothered to at least affect an interest in working people. Hillary's managers figured they didn't need the unions. Great call that was. Bernie's people regarded unions as antediluvian. That's one reason why he couldn't have won.

So don't look to see great arguments for unions. The people who belonged and built them and still work for a living in this country--a small percentage still are represented by unions. The rest are mostly ignorant or suspicious. It's a shame that they are the ones who will suffer.

UPDATE (Feb. 27): Today the Times and the W. Post did publish editorials that favored the union position in the case argued yesterday at the Supreme Court. The Post's editorial supported a weaker position than the unions and their allies advanced in defense of a 40-year-old precedent.

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