More on Unions
Damn you “comments closed”! Let me abuse my power to respond to some comments from my Union Rep post.
LauraNo and Roger, I think, make similar points.
LauraNo: I know I’m late with this but I guess I’ll throw it out here anyway. I have always thought that for many working class (white) people, it’s a zero-sum game. If democrats are defending minorities, then they are not defending white people. I think some of the anti-union and anti-government worker and especially anti-USPS feelings stem from the same thought process. The union protects ‘them’ too, which means hard-working, saintly white dude must be losing out somehow…
In my experience, the union protects “them” too more in the sense that they protect the worker who works their tail off as much as the one who sits in the back and reads a magazine, and that’s where the real tension arises. I will get to that in a second because it relates to Roger’s comment. As far as the Democrats go, I think political parties often treat these issues as part of a zero sum game, which is something people pick up on. If they make immigration reform, for instance, their signature issue in a given year, I do think its fair for people who are not immigrants to say, “Okay, but what are they doing for me?”
I’m going to respond to Roger’s points one by one:
You have defaulted to a zero sum conflict value of society and then pondered why those on one side of the paradigm construction don’t rally as you might expect. Workers vs management! Working class vs non working class!
Another possible way to solve the issue is to consider they reject your paradigm in part or whole.
I might have done that… but let’s remember Tonto’s response when the Lone Ranger said “The Indians! They have us surrounded!” Tonto: “What do you mean ‘we’, Pale-face?” I would disagree here with your word “they”. I work two blue-collar labor jobs, live in a blue-collar town, and nearly every member of my family and everyone I see on a regular basis is from that world.I know fairly well how they feel and even a die-hard Republican like my father still has opinions that are pretty close to that paradigm.
Here’s where I am really coming from: at my main job, we just got done with a grueling year-long contract renegotiation with management launched because the administration wanted to force out the long-time custodians who were making four dollars an hour over minimum wage with benefits and replace them with part-timers at less money and without benefits. For the most part, management won. We got shafted. Lots of people are talking about quitting. I might well have to quit. But, let’s just say that some of us adopt paradigms and some of us have them thrust upon us. After holding about a dozen blue-collar jobs in my life, I am way too used to having this paradigm thrust upon me.
For example, they may not think that government’s role is to take stands of one side against another. Indeed anyone who does think this way is kind of an exploitative bastard…no? “FY I Want Mine From You?” Perhaps they think the role of government is to provide just rules which apply to everyone and then get out of our way.
This might be a misreading of what I wrote, or maybe it’s something of a tangent. I said that government doesn’t represent their interests, which makes the answer to “What’s the matter with Kansas?” something like, “Nothing the matter; they’re just paying attention.” I did not say the government’s role is to take sides against another and, ideally, what I would like to see from government is something like: “to provide just rules that apply to everyone and get out of the way.” But they do take sides. That’s the problem. In Canada, at least, very much is done for the unemployed and there are very few protections for those of us who work for a living. This fosters resentments. In the States, it’s a bit more bipolar: much is done for those at the very top and the very bottom and next to nada for the bulk in the middle. This also fosters resentments.
Alternatively to the above, they could, as you suggest, have no faith that a government which takes sides will really take their side as opposed to the side of elites or other special interest groups. For example, if they view democrats as for minority privilege, and they are not a minority, then they realistically see this as a threat to their opportunity and equality.
Yep, that’s pretty much what I’m saying. The government takes sides. They side with elites and special interest groups. The closest they come to addressing the needs of working people is to focus on those in the direst circumstances on the margins and wonder why the larger working class turns away from them.
On the union angle, I am familiar with three working class takes on unions. First, that they are valuable and “help people like me.” Second, that they encourage free riders and loafers at the expense of “hard working responsible people like me.” And third that they are a net drain on value for all workers, often creating a zero sum dynamic and animosity which creates “harm for all of us, and drives jobs away.”
The take that I recently heard from a long-time employee at that main job of mine, following the horrible news about our new contract was: “If you work hard, you should not need a union. Unions are only for lazy people… And yet, what can we do? We need a union.” Our management can blame the union for the current “zero sum dynamic”, yet what they’re asking from their employees is simply not workable. I will quite likely have to quit this job because, under the new contract that they’ve been pushing for ever since they got a new President and Board, they want only part-time employees doing the labor jobs and they define “part-time” as being employed only when needed; thus, I am asked to be available five days a week for a job that might well employ me for zero days a week- and I suppose ask my landlord to be okay with that. I can’t do it.
Again, I’ve worked a lot of blue-collar jobs, most without unions, and none of them existed in the ideal world in which we don’t need unions because we all work hard together and management appreciates it. I think it should be that way. I think it’s stupid to run a business where it’s not that way. But, in my experience, the response to me being an exceptional worker has always, always, fishing always been something like “Rufus, you’re doing a really great job. We were wondering if you could stay tonight and work a few more hours just to help us get caught up. Clock out first.” Everywhere I’ve worked, the free riders were always the ones in charge.
It wasn’t a “zero sum dynamic” but if you’re not the one in charge, trust me, the “bottom line” dynamic feels about the same.