Here’s where I get myself on the list to receive busted kneecaps, but it has to be said…
It is arguable that labor unions were absolutely necessary in decades past. Worker safety, benefits, increased wages, and other worker protections were a result of union intervention. That is another debate in and of itself, but those factors are the result of the existence of unions.
However, it can also be argued that the unions have outlived their initial usefulness. With stories of “job banks” in corporations that were deeply in debt, threats to workers, and violence against others, today’s labor unions appear to be little more that collections of organized goons that bankrupt companies and act in their own self interest, rather that the interests of the worker.
This became very clear to me in the mid 90′s, when the steel workers were striking against a company with approximately 5000 employees. The issue at hand was pensions, which, if I recall correctly, the company wanted to manage in a way the union did not like. Since this would set a precedent throughout the industry, the union resistance was vigorous. At any rate, the president of the union was quoted by the MSM as saying that if the company didn’t relent, they union would shut the company down, permanently if necessary. At the time, I was still learning about Conservatism, so I only noted that if I was an employee of that steel company, I would not feel particularly “represented ” by that union. (Note that I have to go by memory here. This happened pre-internet, so I have been able to find no references to the event.)
That resonated a good bit for me. As a child, I remember hearing stories from grandparents about how the unions worked. They told me of people being beaten half to death for opposing the leadership. According to what I was told, people would be drug from union meetings and beaten on the spot for the slightest opposition to the leadership. The message was clear to the worker, usually an immigrant that was happy just to have a job; “tow the line, or get the hell beat out of you.” I would think that such messages were received in the spirit in which they were intended.
Now, I understand this a bit more. Since unions are left leaning, socialist organizations, their members are not individuals will needs, preferences, or rights. They are instead numbers, or units, if you will. In a socialist state, or a union, individuals or groups are sacrificed to insure the survival of the whole (or more to maintain the power of the leadership). So, if 5000 workers had to be sacrificed for the union leadership to have their preferred pension choice, so be it.
I could cite examples of union violence, of which there are many, but that has been covered here, and at many other blogs. I could go over the fact that unions contributed mightily to the loss of jobs around the US. That too, is easily verifiable. I could cover the history of mob connections and other criminal exploits of union bosses and members, up to and including recent allegations of voter registration fraud, but that too, is very well documented. Instead, let’s just concentrate on one factor that is central to Conservatives or Libertarians: do people have the right to choose their affiliations?
For me, the more I look at this issue, it’s a matter of personal liberty. Does a free human have the ability to seek employment with out being forced to affiliate with an organization that they do not wish to join? Do workers have the right to own their own labor, and not have the fruits of that labor confiscated and used for causes that he or she may not support? You see, no matter the abuses of labor or management, it boils down to an issue of liberty. Are we free to pursue employment without interference or conditions, or are we obligated to join a union, or be left out, beaten, or otherwise intimidated?
However, this argument cuts both ways. If someone wants to join a union, they should be able to do so. Alternatively, if someone does not wish to join, they should be free to refuse-without the risk of interference or personal danger. You see, no matter what, it’s an issue of individual freedom. It always has been, and I think we should shelve the rhetoric, and discuss it from that angle.
Yes, I’m talking about Right to Work. And yes, it will limit the power of the unions. It will do that because the union’s power is based on power and coercion. Eliminate the coercion, and allow people to choose, and folks will slowly begin to abandon the unions. With that, goes the unions ability to be a destructive force. They’ll still be around, and they’ll (hopefully) actually advocate for workers, but they won’t be the thuggery machine of which we’re so accustomed.
If you hear that I’m in the hospital, you’ll know why.