Monday, July 26, 2010

Solidarity Never

Atrios this morning asks why unionized journalists hate unions. His question is easily answered. Those in the labor movement in this country who broadened their concerns beyond their members' interests, most parochially, apolitically construed, to concerns about society, capitalism, politics, economic and social justice, were jailed, Red-baited, marginalized, shot, like that. Those who accepted, even embraced, the status quo of money and power, and legitimized it by pretending that their members had no interests broader than their paychecks, were rewarded. The political and media environment in this country has demonized unions, while exalting the far more powerful and rapacious interests the unions might oppose. And a union's stance as not just an agent of social change but as a negotiator over dollars and cents, while far less challenging, also makes it easier to demonize them: if you aren't a member, you're told, in a zero-sum economy (not true--that's yet another discussion), every buck they win is a buck out of your pocket, and does no good at all for anyone else.

Unless you're a client of, say, Scott Boras, you probably don't like him much. And, if you stop and think about it, his efforts, while enriching his clients, also promote and ossify, rather than challenge, the distortions that big money brings to sport. Similarly, a member of, say, a police officers' union applauds its leadership' s demands for more pay, more prestige, more control over working conditions, but rarely, if ever, would think twice about crossing an SEIU or 1199 picket line. And everyone other than police hates police unions. Wonder why.

Solidarity never. Can't build a union worth a damn on that. Or, for that matter, a country worth fighting for. The flag the right wraps itself in belongs to all of us; they disagree. Intolerance affects us all: I am freer as a straight man because gay folk come out and live their lives. I am freer because black folk no longer get lynched (mostly). And, yes, I live in a better country, a richer one, a freer one, if workers organize, win concessions from employers, form a more stable, confident and prosperous middle class, and mobilize politically in support of their brothers and sisters.

And I live in a less free country since ML King got shot while fighting for trash collectors in a labor dispute. Since Reagan fired the PATCO strikers. Since the UAW, rather incredibly, has been blamed above all other actors for the US auto industry's decline, the SEIU demonized as the enabler of illegal immigrants and its leader and Obama denounced for deigning to meet, the unions' pension funds, again rather incredibly, viewed as imposed on helpless employers rather than the subject of negotiation and, therefore, morally suspect. And even the wages of non-unionized workers, at-will employees mostly with ever fewer benefits and no job security, held competitive disadvantages in a global marketplace.

So that answers Atrios' question. Glad I could clear that up...

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