Conservative Hideout Freedom Plan: Organized Labor


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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.

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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.

  • Asking the unions to give up the source of their power may put those knees in jeopardy. I don’t think they can be reformed from the inside out.

    • There is no way on Earth to reform them from the bottom-up. The head has to be removed from the snake.

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  • Great article, Matt and one that I think is very relevant. The decision to join a union or not should be a personal one and not a requirement for getting a job. It is about personal liberty, plain and simple, as you have said. Of course, with the unions being all powerful and all knowing, they think they know better than the average joe who is just trying to get and keep a job, in order to feed his family.

    What it all boils down to is power. The unions have had it for a long time and any attempt to remove or reduce that power is going to be seen as a threat. Your kneecaps may very well be in jeopardy.

    • I guess I should be investing in body armor…

      That’s the point I eventually came to. Most of us have posted on unions. I grew up watching them help kill off entire areas. But, in the end, the question that should be asked of union supporters is this; “Do you support forcing people to join an organization against their will.” Don’t let off of it, and make them answer it.

  • Great post Matt! It is telling that a union would rather force a company out of business and cost 5000 people–that the union is supposed to be representing–their jobs than give a little back to the company. Thet do not care about the little guy, only about power. In that sense they sound an aweful lot like the Democrat party, maybe that is why they are aligned so closely with them.

    • That’s a very good point. It goes back to what I said. In a socialist state or organization, individuals are meaningless. If some have to be sacrificed to insure the power of the leadership, so be it.

  • Jim

    I grew-up in a union family in Flint, Michigan. Both my parents were members of the UAW. My father participated in the sit-down strikes that finally won recognition for the UAW. I know how Union officials think. Watch your back. In 1984-1985 I was in charge building and then operating a large gold mine in northern Nevada. There were three other mines in the region that had been operating for many years and all three were closed-shops with the United Steel Workers. As we were staffing-up, I met with every group of new hires explaining the companies philosophy. I also explained their rights to unionize but I asked them to first give us a chance to prove that they wouldn’t need a union. There were three attempts in the first two years by outside USS people to sign-up our employees. They never came close to getting enough signatures. As a result of our success the new mines that came in after us were all able to stay union free.

    There probably was a time when unions were necessary. That time has passed in my opinion.

    • That’s one of the problems with card check. people won’t have a choice, other than between signing the card or taking a beatdown. If people have a choice, and the company treats them well, they won’t choose a union.

      Cardcheck will dispense with that inconvenient reality.

  • Doomed

    Back in the Early 80’s Our company Airplane landed at Love Field in Dallas. We blew a tire on landing and so we had to have the tire replaced. So we went and visited the local Aircraft Tire and wheel and break Plant.

    When I was there talking to the shop foreman about doing service work on the wheel to insure its integrity and putting a new tire on the wheel assembly two big fancy caddies showed up and out stepped 6 huge, ginormous men in 1000 dollar silk suits.

    These guys were giants. 300lbs easy, bulging muscles and greased and slicked back hair and sporting the perfect image of the mafia.

    I noticed the shop foreman immediately look uncomfortable and so I asked what was that.

    “The Union” He said with no hiding his disdain in his voice. “Contract is coming due.”

    I nodded. There was no need to go any farther with what the implication was.

    I was taken out into the shop to see their facilities and was able to ask one of the Break Mechanics how things were going….He responded amicably but then said “Just as long as we dont have to go on strike.”

    “Yeah I saw the union guys just show up.”

    “Bastards.” The union mechanic said. “They are threatening to strike over 30 cents an hour over 3 GD years.”

    I find Unions eerily similar to our own government. Their principals and their union members sweat equals the sweet life for them at YOUR EXPENSE.

    • That’s a rather chilling story. It is true that the rank and file is irrelevant to them.

  • Don

    My younger brother works in the Federal Prison System and is, of course in the union. He vigorously defends unions, but is oddly conservative in every other aspect of his philosophy.

    I believe that unions, while in some cases might be needed, they have entirely too much power.

    The unions came about because employers were too powerful and the workers had no bargaining chip. However, I think that the pendulum has swung back the other way and in many cases, the unions are now the entities with most, if not all of the power.

    • That’s a good point Don. I think under my scenario, there would still be unions, and if companies didn’t treat their people well, they would join them. The real question is whether or not that choice will be free.

  • Virginia is a right to work state, and I ran into my first association with unions a couple years back when I got a part-time job at a supermarket. They asked me if I wanted to join the union. My reply was, “Why?”. They couldn’t really give me a good answer, not like I was gonna join anyway, I despise unions. But it is interesting the complaints you will here about non-union workers from union workers in a right to work state.

    Often they would bitch about how we get all the benefits the union gets for us but we don’t have to pay dues. And they wanted to go on strike in support of some contract dispute going on in another state, I told them to get bent.

    All unions do is raise the cost of products to the consumer. They don’t protect workers rights, all those issues have been legislated away. Unions have no purpose anymore.

    • Very true. We all pay in the end…in more ways than one. When factories move, when towns are crippled when the factories move, and when jobs don’t come back, governments, and taxpayers at all levels will pay as well.

  • Unions have been on the decline for decades though they still wield too much political power for their size. Unions will raise their voices higher as their influence continues to diminish.

    • They have been in decline, and they appear not to understand that they had a role in killing the jobs they pretended to protect.

  • The existence of trial lawyers should be (and probably is) enough to keep modern companies from abusing their workers or subjecting them to unsafe conditions. Nobody likes being sued for $millions. This ought to make unions and gov’t agencies like OSHA pretty much unnecessary. But somehow unions, OSHA, *AND* trial lawyers all seem to be doing just fine.

    Not cool at all.

    • That’s the thing that happens when something is institutionalize. They will always change or redefine things to justify their own existence.

  • You pegged it Matt, it’s all about Liberty. There is no liberty in card check. There is Liberty in Right to Work. It’s mind-blowing Americans are forced to join unions. Like so much these days, it is wrong, and it has been wrong for a very long time. Great post.

    • I think that getting back to thinking about freedom, and what it really means has caused me to look at more and more at everything from the lens of individual liberty.

      Thanks for the comment Maggie.

  • When RR fired the air traffic controllers it opened my eyes to the reality that we would often be better off without them.

    But if we want the rest of the country to look like Detroit, just past card check and we’ll be well on our way

    The problem imho is they’ve blackmailed the less than brave management of the auto companies in good times… for terms that are wholly unsustainable in bad ones

    Plus, the class warfare crap is entirely un-American… the United States doesn’t work that way

  • The Detroit comparison is correct, and haunting. If you want to see the long term effect of socialist policies, look at Detroit.