How do we 'sell' america on Unions?

I ask because people like my stepdad are everywhere crying at how unions are parasitic, protecting moochers and leeches, and doing nothing but excusing their own existance while draiing money from workers. These are people that look nostalgicly at Saint Regan telling people to either get back to work or they’re fired during the 80’s strikes. They are also the ones that refuse to see that the Company Towns of a century ago could come back… in an even worse form that is harder to see is blatantly aweful.

How do we do this? We need to reach out to those people not just for personal reasons of being family, but also reaching them robs Trumpsters and other crooks their base to shout down at us with.


I find this one pretty compelling:


Came here to post that. Beat me to it. I doth tip my hat to you. All internets are yours.


The same way as other things in this “marketplace of ideas” - those who need it use it, and complainers don’t. Not unlike abortions, drugs, and other nontroversies. Those who are opposed to unions are free to not have any. But also, when a peanut gallery of monied lobbyists try to make problems, they need to be taken out, directly and decisively.


Your dad may, sadly, be too old to educate. The propaganda has been so powerful, because the owner-class has spent phenomenal sums of money to discredit and destroy unions. You might ask why billionaires hate them so much, but the Fox crowd will just say “because union bad.”

I have a theory it’s not even about money. If it was just money, we can always negotiate that. I think it’s about power and class. There is no way Thurston Howell III wants to sit down at the bargaining table with some black person who never even went to college.


I was sold once I left working with union factories to working with non-union factories. When I was in the auto industry I would see a lot of crap and get down on unions or hear about the various scams and such, but then eventually heard about the terrible management practices that ended up with the visible problems the union had.

Then I worked with a (proudly) non-union factory environment where… well they were terrible. There was no one that had worked there for longer than a few years (factory floor jobs were always cut first), there was no leadership on the floor because they had a completely flat organization (and no “unspoken” hierarchy a union can provide), there were more injuries and more mistakes and more cost eaten by the company in rework, and we couldn’t trust an employee to do anything not out of elitism (though some took it that way) but because they were an untrained 17 year old.

I don’t know a good way to have such a on-site proof like I had but unions might be expensive labor but there has to be data showing the benefits in quality improvements and cost improvements to the company along with career and wage improvement to the employee.


I don’t even know where to start with this…

You might as well ask why public schools are a good idea.

…Um, because feudalism blows?


IMO Unions have a problem of always overreaching. Worker conditions, safety and reasonable pay? Great! “Protecting jobs”? Road to hell. I’m also truly not sure that unskilled autoworkers truly deserved the the kind of pay they got in the 70’s for making truly crappy cars. There’s a terrific This American Life piece about trying to change the culture at a California GM plant to Japanese methods. The Japanese system was ‘zero defects’, the American was: “who cares about quality?”, if it’s caught at all somebody else will fix it. Half the employees would be drunk on the job, but couldn’t be fired.

Public employee unions have their own issues related to capture of the political system. Police are always complaining that they’re underpaid for a dangerous job, when in fact they’re paid well over the community median for a not particularly dangerous job.

I think this is required listening for those interested in this thread:


Class consciousness -> unions. It’s much harder if you try to do it the other way around.

Come all of you workers who toil night and day
By hand and by brain to earn your pay
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead

In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
We’ve often been told to keep up with the times
For our skills are not needed, they’ve streamlined the job
And with sliderule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed

But when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
Who’s given a gun and then pushed to the fore
And expected to die for the land of our birth
When we’ve never owned one handful of earth?

We’re the first ones to starve the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
And always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat’s about

All of these things the worker has done
From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
We’ve been yoked to the plough since time first began
And always expected to carry the can


I can do it on the individual level, but probably not to any large group.

I usually start with saying something like “I’ve heard all ---- are alike, do you think that’s true?” (substituting some grouping this person is likely to insist is multifarious for -----) and then following up without giving them a chance to answer with “I don’t think it’s possible that all unions could possibly be alike, there have to be good and bad ones, because that’s how people are, right? If some unions will have corrupt featherbedding leadership they’ll get all the press, while the ones that do good things like support widows and orphans of workplace accidents will be ignored. Because that’s what the media is like, right?” And then let them rant a little, before talking about some of the stuff that collective bargaining has historically given us.

I try not to directly confront with polar opposite views, that’s bad strategy. Never put your opponent in death ground, as Sun Tzu might say (or more colloquially, a cornered rat fights hardest.) Instead give them a way out - “well, what you say is probably true about some unions, or maybe even most modern unions, but historically unions made our nation much better than it was, so unionization is a powerful tool we shouldn’t throw out - we should reclaim it for the better, only get rid of the bad union leaders so the good ones can prosper.”

And I try not to go too far. You don’t need to persuade the person to see things exactly as you do right now. If you plant a true seed, it will bear true fruit, in time. Be patient, plant the seed and back off.

It’s much harder if you respect the person too much to be willing to manipulate them psychologically, or if you are speaking in public (or on an online forum) where you have to very meticulously tell the truth or you’ll discredit your cause. In a bar argument you can be sloppier with language and more manipulative without doing anyone any harm.


Nearly all commercial and industrial electrical work in the US is done by IBEW members.

The IBEW is like an old-timey guild, they set the standards for pretty much everything, and the system works well. In addition to doing things like managing pensions and keeping them safe from employer raiding, and providing excellent health insurance and running apprenticeship programs.

There’s occasionally issues with internal politics, but the IBEW is an exemplary union you can point to.


How can you blame unions for producing crappy cars and to keep producing gas guzzlers after they became unsalable ? Unions don’t design automobiles.They don’t develop corporate strategy. You are also saying that the corporation ceded all authority regrading quality control to low level union members. I find it incredible that half of workers on a highly mechanized shop floor would be drunk. Unions didn’t destroy the US auto industry-- Germany and Japan had strong unions and they seemed to have done well. If you watch only one Michael Moore film ever, watch Roger and Me.


Yeah, at the Chrysler plant here in the 70s probably only a third were drunk on the line on any given day. Of course, some additional number were screaming high.

My mom worked for a local doctor in that era; guys would come in for follow up care after line accidents and they’d already be drunk or high before noon.


an invasion or make them armed unions

My tired brain misread the last word in the thread title as “Unicorns”. Maybe that’s an answer.

A near century of propaganda by Hollywood. The same people who made them (And the EPA and FCC and pick anything else that the government does to protect citizens from rich people like those in Hollywood) look like shit to the average citizen to begin with.

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Who needs Hollywood when you got bullshit anecdotes?

I heard horseshit like this all the time in the factories I’ve worked in. Just a never-ending stream of Fox News garbage. Just an endless stream of lies from management too, “If you sign a union vote card, that means you’re in the union!”, “Unions will take all the extra money they’ll negotiate for you in dues!” Hell, I got fired from one for saying the management line on unions was bullshit. “People just want a union so they can be lazy and drunk!” and not, you know, wanting to work less than 60 hours a week, or having healthcare, or actual vacation time, or a livable wage.

As far as selling unions to the public, there’s a long road ahead, and I’m not sure automation won’t make most of the factors that necessitate them irrelevant. You got too many people who believe all this crap. It all plays into the Strong Independent Man the rightwing peddles. If you need support, you’re weak and a loser. One time I was talking with people about it, and one said a union was bad because they wouldn’t support him crossing a picket line. In another situation, a co-worker who was temp like me literally said about the regular workers, “The reason these guys are making bad parts is because they’re paid too much.” I couldn’t even respond to that one except shake my head. Just insane…




Not all unions are the same. The UK motor industry (their industrial sector as a whole in fact) had similar problems because of their unions in the 50s and 60s, in Germany and Japan (and elsewhere in Europe) the companies and the unions reached compromises which allowed for the modernisation of their work practices (along with some job losses), UK unions at the time were far more on the radical-left than their continental brethren, there was no compromise… the UK went from the world’s second biggest car manufacturer to fifth in about ten years.