The most salient feature of what I think about labor unions, and "union workers" comes from personal experience--not a theory of "socialism" or "capitalism" or any of the rest of the intellectual mumbo-jumbo that is so often the basis for opinion in the matter. (The fact that I was once an activist for a public employees union in NYC is beside the point.)
My grandfather started the Irish-American Autoworkers Union in Detroit. It was later absorbed into the United Auto Workers. He didn't work in the factories himself--he was an attorney--bred in this country with an Irish surname. That gave him some clout at a time when most of the autoworkers were Irish immigrants; he used to enlist them from a soapbox when they arrived at the train station.
He helped organize the early strikes, especially the one in Flint that really kicked off the movement, and had the life-long distinction of having been beaten by Ford's "goons". The story used to bring him great pleasure, though he was a man of few words. It was a little hard to imagine anyone beating up Gramps without killing him. Surely, if they knew him they understood that was the only way to stop him.
The union was the way to put enough food on the table of the workers so they could feed their progeny--the same progeny who when they became "educated" went to work for the car companies and became anti-union. If I hadn't seen it so many times, even in my own family I wouldn't believe it, or the fact that many of the old union men approved because it meant the kid had made it--and after all--that's the point when you've made all those sacrifices.
It became apparent to me at an early age that an odd thing happens to a person when they put on their white shirt and go to work for a large corporate entity--as good and well meaning a person as they may be. It's not that they exactly lose their minds, as much as their sense of history, propriety, and dignity. Their social conscience become the corporate conscience, and that's often no conscience at all. Since no one is ultimately responsible for anything but their own paycheck, and any responsibility that can be measured is based on maximizing profit, nobody "knows nothin'."
Yeah, the apologists have great economic theories, plenty of straw dogs, and can quote the founding fathers on the benefits of man's profiting morally from the sweat of his own brow, but in a land where the billionaires rule the roost that's not much compensation--and yes--it keeps getting worse and nobody knows nothin'.
The corporate boys point their fingers at the unions and the unions point their finger back in a never ending battle like the uroboros, the snake that keeps biting its own tail always going in circles. The next thing you know there are neither profits nor jobs and the whole mess comes crashing to the ground like the city of Detroit itself.
You actually think these bozos are capable of working in their own best long term interests or that of the nation as a whole? I long ago gave up on that one as I suspect anybody has who witnessed and takes seriously what happened in Detroit. Regulation of some sort or other seems inevitable either on a short term or long term basis--but don't tell the neo-conservatives that until it is their turn to have their towns and cities destroyed by their own greed and insufferable ideological ignorance. You think GM learned from the latest crises? I frankly doubt it.
How did Japan manage to take over so much of the auto industry and the electronics industry after the war?
A) 80 per cent of the population makes within 50 per cent of the income of the rest. There is no need for unions or the ideological battle when you know the folks on top of the pile aren't walking away with most of the money and the benefits.
B) The government (yes, horror of horrors) the government controls the system, specifically, its bureaucrats, who turned it into the second largest economy in the world for the last 40ty years with half the population of the US.
C) Since 1946 the American taxpayer has been paying for the costs of their military defense. Tojo is dead. Among other things, it has enabled the Japanese to have a health care system that allows them to live ten years longer than Americans on the average.
I have sympathy for what is happening now in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, but I also have a question: Where were they in the last election when the writing was on the wall? Didn't they suspect right wing small minded reaction was on the march? My God--the President is a black man--how could they miss it? Didn't they sense danger then? What kept them from the polls? It's particularly disconcerting in Wisconsin with its liberal tradition. The farmers and "wealth pretenders" can't control the state if the urban middle class votes in their best interests, and the same thing can certainly be said for Michigan, or what's left of it.
I suspect part of the problem is the same everywhere with "unionists" and "faux liberals." They're still waiting for Godot--the perfect candidate--the one who will launch their fantasy world--and by their withdrawal from the political process hand the country over to the right as they have done for the most part since Vietnam.
They have no loyalty to the only party where they have a fighting chance to have their interests represented and take it as an insult that anyone would suggest otherwise. They confuse "independence" with political reality. They'd rather live in their fairyland, twisted in knots by their own recalcitrance until they're stripped of what few rights have been won, such as collective bargaining.
Some of these folks even voted for the party that's now trying to put them out of work when they made it clear that's exactly what they intended to do. As Gramps would say, "the poor buggers gored themselves on their own pretensions."
There's no question they're as perfidious as Godot, but I still back them on principle--just as Gramps taught me.