Unions. Who needs ’em? They’re so passe, so 1930s.
This is the frantic argument being pushed by corporate lobbyists who’re worried by the recent resurgence in union organizing, political punch and public support. Sure, say these corporatists, unions were needed back in the bad ol’ Depression days, when rich executives and investors treated workers with all the respect that a Kleenex gets — use ’em up, toss ’em out.
But, hey, Bucko, that was last century! We’re all in the modern global economy today, where cooperation — not confrontation — is the key. Workers are now called “associates,” and we deal with each of them as individuals in a flexible workforce willing to help top executives cut labor costs. Unions just get in the way of this, don’t you see?
This line of “thinking” was expressed a couple of weeks ago by John Engler, the former Michigan politician who’s now chief lobbyist and noted labor theorist for the National Association of Manufacturers: “In the sophisticated workplaces of the 21st century, you see management and labor often work closely together to beat the competition. When they’re doing that, the need for unions is obviated. And when management and unions are not working together, unions are not likely to succeed and not likely to survive.”
What Professor Engler is telling us is that, ergo, ipso facto and ad absurdum, he’s a gooberhead.
The need for unions is hardly obviated when worker productivity keeps rising, only to be rewarded by declining wages, elimination of health care benefits and cancellation of pensions. Meanwhile, downsizings and offshorings of American jobs are rampant, and part-time work is the new norm.
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