Bit of history: I am not your typical leftist-liberal big-union person. In fact, I have issues with a lot of union activities, mostly with union leadership and the ridiculous amount of (perceived and/or real) corruption at the top. Union leadership has, from my admittedly comfortable seats always been the most negative aspect of the modern labor movement. However, corruption hardly requires a union card to happen, as you need only search your local paper to find.
Despite this early resistance to organized labor, I always respected the right of people to unionize and collectively bargin. I don’t have to agree with them, I don’t even have to support them, but it’s a right earned over many battles with business and government. When measured against the negative, the good done by unions always outweighed the bad. Hell, even Ronald Reagan said “… where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.” (He also said “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives,” a point apparently lost on the Governors of a few states.)
I got into a twitter argument with a family member today and one his comments struck me. He said (paraphrasing) they [unions] did not care about the company, only their paychecks. And it struck me that that point was exactly where I turned on the issues currently moving through the political sausage machine in this state right now.
It’s not that they care only about their paychecks, but they do care more about their pay than the company does, that’s their point in existing. But the unspoken aspect of that statement was there as well, that somehow businesses didn’t operate this way. Somehow, businesses are operating in some interest of their employees. Which is a complete and utter lie, sold to workers by cheerful HR folks and corporate propagandists. Businesses don’t care about employees,they care about their bottom lines; they have to. When the finances get tough, employees are the ones made to suffer (and not executives either, it’s you and me, brother). I’ve been through the layoff cycle (three rounds in less than 6 months). Hundreds of employees tossed out on the street because the bottom line needed to be firm.
And union workers took the first hit. Factory workers laid off, lines closed down, the whole thing. And management was terrified. Why? Because the union started grumbling. They never said it, never threatened it, but the word “strike” was always just off to the side of conversations. The next two rounds were white-collar only. And not one management type batted an eye.
Why? Because office workers can’t do the one thing that probably saved more factory jobs. We can’t organize. We can’t protest. We can’t. Say. Shit.
This cycle is happening again in Michigan. Public employees make too much (except they don’t). The Tough Nerd is going to save the state, though. And how is he going to do that? By cutting taxes on businesses, and making the rest of us cover the difference. By giving dictatorial powers to financial managers (who, conveniently can dissolve unions and entire governments if they see fit). Take note, patriots: a governmental body just gave a non-elected position the right and ability to dissolve local governments.
This will become the reverberating refrain for our generation, politicians in the pocket of big business leaving working people holding the bag. It’s the kind of behavior organized people can work to prevent. I may not have agreed or supported unions in the past, but I do today.