Unions and the Occupy Movement

I recently compared the Occupy Movement to the New Left, but it’s truly striking how different the former’s relationship is with organized labor.

The New Left assailed societal bureaucratization and powerful elites, including potentates in organized labor. Union members beat up antiwar protesters. Forty-plus years later, unions have gotten squarely behind Occupy Wall Street and its innumerable offshoots. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who C. Wright Mills and company may have derided in years past, castigated authorities this week for cracking down on peaceful protesters. The Transport Workers Union of Greater New York, incensed that police dragooned bus drivers into transporting arrested protesters, filed an (ultimately unsuccessful) lawsuit. Last night, union members and occupiers turned out en masse to protest Scott Walker’s fundraising visit to Des Moines.

Why the temporal change?

Constant rearguard attacks and mass deunionization have surely play a part. Labor is beleaguered—not an ossified, establishment force.  And the cultural chasm between the labor rank-and-file and leftists seems to have shrunk; organized labor has moved to the left in recent decades, and the left has moved to the right (no more antiwar sentiment transmogrifying into anti-soldier enmity). I just can’t imagine anything comparable to the Hard Hat Riot happening now.

UPDATE: The inimitable Ned Resnikoff was kind enough to respond to my post. Check it out.

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26 thoughts on “Unions and the Occupy Movement

  1. The difference here is public vs. private sector unions. There’s a qualitative difference, and no discussion makes sense w/o acknowledging it.

    All power to labor when it’s got something the creation of wealth requires—a skilled, able, and conscientious workforce.

    Bureaucrats are parasites. That’s the way it is, and always has been. In more civilized countries, they depend on bribes, not their salaries.


  2. OWS is not a leftist movement. It is not aiming to lead a Third World type communist revolution in the US. The New Left thought it was leading such a revolution . OWS has far more in common with the 19th Century Populist Movement than the Maoists of the 1960s who wanted to completely restructure American society along the lines of China during the Cultural Revolution. Unions in America especially after WWII have been explicitely anti-communist dedicated to what Lenin derided as “trade union consciousness” or wanting a better material life for themselves and their families. This fits in with 19th Century ideas of Populism just fine. It does not jibe well with Marxist-Leninist terrorists like the Weathermen.


    • Profound. Having talked to some labor people recently, they’re just itching to tell/show some new blood (like the OWS) how things are done.
      A good quote:
      “Unions never got anything legally. They made facts on the ground, and then people rewrote the laws”


  3. The unions (non-public) are shrinking because they successfully forced the creation of bureaucracies, legislation, and regulations that would not only ‘protect’ their health and safety but curtail bidness expansion, growth, and hiring. The unions became redundant, and unnecessary and now have become, pathetically, ironic, I supppose. But, in fairness, I do think LBJ’s “Great Society” and desire to kill Charlie/NVA while paying for it with funny, non-gold related, money sent ‘jobs’ overseas (you manufacture, and we’ll consume and we’ll begin to move off the gold standard). We really have a lot to thank the progressive, commie-dems for.


    • Bob, I was talking to a fellow yesterday that is a welder; has been for a long time.
      We were talking about my new inspector’s certification, which is something that only about 1100 men in this nation have, about 29,000 worldwide.
      Now, he typically welds mild steel.
      So, I asked him if he TIGs.
      He started talking about aluminum.
      I told him that ethanol plants are full of stainless, thin guage, big stuff, that has to be TIGed. That stuff is so warped that you have to dog it off all the way around.
      That’s about where the conversation ended.

      Now, stainless is known for pulmonary edema.
      Just like the chrome pipe that makes the new large capacity super-critical boilers are known for hexavalent chromium.

      Now, if you’re a company, it’s preferable to have someone work with chrome pipe that’s trained to do that.
      It’s better than teaching them that on the job.
      It can get expensive having to fix that stuff.
      And with all chrome pipe, it has to be heated up before tacking it, and then there’s a post-weld heat treatment.

      Now, API 1104 (the pipeline standards) specify that the crown of a weld shall be no more than 1/16″, and shall be no wider than 1/8″ of the groove.
      Not everyone can do that.
      And as a result, falsification of documents is rampant in the inspection business.
      And nobody really cares until a neighborhood blows up.


  4. “AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who C. Wright Mills and company may have derided in years past, castigated authorities this week for cracking down on peaceful protesters.”

    This seems more than a bit self-serving (in both your case and that of Richard Trumka). Would you have expected him to cheer on the violence and thereby reduce his own potential to demonstrate? Even if OWS and organized labor have no overlap, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Otherwise, wrt unions, I agree with Bob above (If I had a nickel…) that the bureaucratization of working class demands has made unions redundant. Of course, this is part of the problem, because unions can respond to economic signals organically, while government organizations will always fail to respond to any signals but those of their pre-determined patron budgets. That is to say, institutionalizing the demands of the working class has made those demands more likely to be met but at major costs in terms of efficiency.

    All my libertarian-leaning libertarian homies say, yeah.


    • Otherwise, wrt unions, I agree with Bob above (If I had a nickel…) that the bureaucratization of working class demands has made unions redundant.

      This is an odd way of looking at it when, with the decline in union membership, we’ve got a decline in real wages and other compensation, among other declines for labor. Bob’s basically full of it, per usual.


      • Read and learn Chris, I’m here to hep. BTW, picked up a fine Mosin-Nagant, 7.62X54, a very powerful round. Manufactured in the Motherland but not at the Tula armory, bummer, yet test fired, cosmolined, and crated. This beauty waited for me for 76 years. Fires true! Let me recommend to my League bros to go buy one, because the price may triple in the next few months. Ammo’s resonable, so we’ll all be ready for the commie, fleabaggers when they grow the gonads to rise up!


      • You’re going to have to cite something, because every study I’ve ever read shows that median incomes and services have increased dramatically since the New Deal or Great Society or any other working-class reform benchmark anyone can point to. And unless we’re completely incompetent, they should have.


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