Labor Unions are Like Sunrises: What Did You Expect to Happen?

Here is a second post inspired by watching Pride on Sunday.

It mystifies me when I hear people, especially working-class people, complain about unions.  Living in an industrial society and hating labor unions is like living on Earth and hating the sunrise.  Fine, maybe there are things about them you don’t like, but you can hardly complain when they appear.  What else did you expect?

To want unions to disappear is to ask workers to accept dangerous working conditions and bare-survival (or less) wages.  Of course workers will organize to advocate for their own interests, which might increase prices on goods.  Stock holders and business owners organize in their own interests too.

We all benefit from labor unions and their struggles.  I used to see a bumper sticker that said, “If you’re enjoying your weekend, thank a union member.”  Unionists established our idea of a reasonable quality of life.  And that standard is eroding.  I don’t think it’s coincidence that this erosion has followed the decline of union strength.

If people are going to be employees, then they will demand a certain level of respect, pay, and safety.  There’s no way around it.  If you don’t want labor unions, then, to be consistent, you have to get rid of industrialization too.  You’re not going to have one without the other.

It has always been our manufacturing and mining unions that were strongest.  But, with the decline in American manufacturing, our strongest unions declined too.  So now we are left with an America of a wealthy elite, a shrinking middle class, and a growing group of vulnerable workers.  Globalization, “free trade,” and deindustrialization have all been good for companies who want workers who can’t make demands on them or the government.  They have also been good for the leadership of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

But globalization, “free trade,” and deindustrialization have been bad for the rest of us.  Unions, on the other hand, no matter how much you want to complain, have been great to us.

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