How do we 'sell' america on Unions?

I think that unions did their job and then outlived their usefulness. Labor laws and OSHA allowed the government to ensure the protections once guarded by the unions, making them obsolete. They then fell prey to the same problem as every other sizable organization- where the reason for the organization becomes a distant secondary concern to the maintinence of the organization.

Of course, we know what happened next- corporate dominance and government deregulation began to strip away worker protections and leave us as in need of strong unions as ever.

So that leaves us… um, well, generally fucked. I forgot where I was going with this.

Right. I think there’s a future in non-union unions. I keep looking back to the Market Basket victory a couple years ago- Where what we had was essentially a union action without a union. Pretty much all the employees up to and including corporate management walked out and picketed until the ousted president was returned to his position.

Obviously, the big thing here is solidarity and commitment, but I think that’s also true of a union action. What excites me about this approach though, is the degree of power it delivers to the workers. With no organized union, no designated leaders, there is nobody to negotiate or compromise with. It becomes a binary proposition- Meet the demand, or stay shut down.

Imagine if something like this happened with say, all the Walmart stores in a particular state. The key is a simple, clear, and tangible goal- For MB it was restoring the old leadership, but for Walmart, it could be for example an across the board raise consistent with a $15 starting wage.


I had a IBEW card and worked in a lighting fixture factory when I was 19. I worked with guys drinking 40 oz Colt 45s for lunch. There were plenty of sloppy mistakes and injuries. But one of the biggest clusterfucks I witnessed was a whole order being moved before it’s paint was cured ruining it and forcing a complete refinish. That was due to a foreman, whose motto was “better get it out half-assed than no assed”, needing his on-time bonus.

The thing with the quality is than design quality is irrelevant if the assembly is poor. Did you actually listen to the show?

You sure have persuasive arguments! Whenever I tell someone the things that they saw with their own eyes are “bullshit anecdotes” they just naturally want to agree with me and vote for my candidates!

Eight years of Trump here we come.


Well, I just read the transcript and the UAW did not destroy General Motors according to the show. Also I’ve worked blue collar and white collar jobs and seem roughly the same amount of on the job drinking, drugging and general fucking around on shop floors and office suites.


Yep, those are the same stories I heard time and time again, and they have as much bearing on the necessity of unions to protect workers from abuse by management as they ever have, which is to say not a fucking thing. Keep working your shit job for shit wages for shit hours all because you saw drunks on the job and did nothing except stew about it for decades and whip it out to complain about unions.

I saw dumbass stuff being done by nonunion workers too, guess that means we need unions to get better workers. Same stupid anecdotes I’ve heard a million times, just like I thought.

Yeah, sorry I don’t really give a shit about people dredging up old bullshit I’ve heard about unions from old farts for years and years. Sorry I’m not polite about it, but after getting fired for talking about unions from a job where 60 hours a week still had the supervisors walking around and asking you work a little overtime I’m done with giving a shit about old stories about how unions are bad because the one guy on the line you half remember decades later was a lush and your dementia has conflated that into every union worker to a man.


You didn’t read the thread title, I guess.

Also you clearly didn’t read the post you’re replying to, since I didn’t mention unions in it at all.

Sober up and try again.

I’ve spent most of the last 40 years as a union member, have done a bit of organizing and have been arrested on the picket line. Having said that, I was inside a fair number of automotive and steel plants in the 70s while working for the Michigan-Ohio District office of the EPA, and for sure there were often hungover employees sleeping on benches near the vending machines. During the same period time-and-motion studies generally indicated that American factory workers worked harder (in the sense of engaging in more motions/hour) than their Japanese counterparts. These are not difficult to reconcile: if you make your employees work longer hours in order to try to get the same productivity out of them as your competition can get at more modern/better designed factories, occasionally they will be doing things at work (like sleeping) that in civilized societies people have the leisure to do at home.

Like some of the posters upthread I find it astonishing that union-bashers so often try to get away with the astonishing implication that workers are responsible for inefficient factory design.


Basically this. Union workers are people and people make mistakes, and systemic mistakes tend to spiral to extremes. Do I know of a factory where a handful of the workers badged everyone in for the day and completed the work load still? Yes. Did they get away with it for a crazy amount of time? Yes. Did the other half run other private businesses to double up pay and share the wealth to keep the scam going? Yes.

But how does that happen? Oh, because their manager was responsible for running multiple factories an hour or more drive apart in an effort to “streamline business” in some fashion, so he just never actually physically drove to the factory and only looked at the badge logs and financial statements. As long as business was good enough it was never questioned, but upper management eventually told them they had to cut costs to an extreme degree of the factory would be moved to another state or country and it meant the manager had to do on-site reviews. Then the manager reported the union workers, and the manager got praised and promoted while the union factory got closed down and the factory moved.

Having worked across the Midwest, for every single bad union story you hear there is also a bad management story you will never ever hear - and the result of the story never ends with the manager being let go. Yes, this is hyperbole - just a trend I have experienced anecdotally. This particular story I heard from the manager bragging about his success and why he deserves his middle manager position.


I don’t recall any of us telling stories of worker dysfunction defending management. There’s plenty of blame to go around. The NPR story was at least as much about management failure.


Efficient factory design often means layoffs though, so if unions resist this it means no efficient factory designs.

Well, there’s efficient and there’s efficient. Questions about (say) robotics or furnace design don’t usually arise at the bargaining table; they aren’t bargainable (at least by US law). Legitimate questions about safety often do.

Well these are things that definitely have come up in the past, see my previous post in the thread. I’m not so knowledgeable about the specifics of industrial relations in the US today, so not talking about anything specific there. I’m also not making blanket criticisms against the concept of unions in general (there are many examples of them working well), but they’re no different than any other human institution, just as susceptible to bankrupt ideologies and corruption as anything else.

Many US unions consider “protecting jobs”, ie forcing the employer to keep a larger work force than they would choose, a large part of their mission, which is at odds with efficiency.

This is very much a management perspective of what the unions are doing. If management could choose, they’d have their workers on the floor 18 hours/day 6 days/week, with the slimmest of health care to cover the inevitable workplace accidents, and call that “efficiency”.


Many times have I heard union negotiators quoted saying protecting jobs is a major goal. It’s particularly acute with public service unions. A city like Hoboken that has gentrified and had a vast number of it’s older properties updated has less need of the level of police and fire staffing they had historically, but the unions fight tooth and nail.

My mayor is on the patrolman’s shit list for doing his job and negotiating for his constituents rather than rolling over for the unions in the name of “supporting” them. They refused to negotiate, refused to accept the arbitrators decision, then sued, and now refuse to accept the judges decision that the contract is in line with other city contracts. These guys make well over $100k with their expected OT plus the usual lavish Bennie’s and early retirement.

You “heard” someone “quoted”. Well, that’s definitive.

This is the same old boring union bashing rhetoric that has been going on in the US for decades. Why you’ve chosen to participate in a thread about how to increase union penetration if you hate unions so much is beyond me, but at least bring in some original rhetoric.

It’s particularly acute with public service unions.

I’ve been in 4 public sector unions in the US (and one in England), and we’ve only ever bargained for bargainable items, though the reactionary press not infrequently has misrepresented our positions.

Unions do fight against things like layoffs and demotions, not as part of bargaining but as part of their job of representing their members, often through grievances which are then either arbitrated or taken to the courts. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but arguing they are evil for doing this is like arguing that public defenders shouldn’t defend indigent clients.

If management decides to lay you off you should have the opportunity to fight for your job, and the union is there to give the worker some smidgen of the power that management already has. Obviously management - be they corporate fat cats or government officials - would prefer to be able to just make capricious layoff decisions unilaterally.

You seem to be referring to cases where workers have fought within the system and lost. Are you saying they shouldn’t have had the opportunity to fight?

Incidentally, your extra assertion that it is “particularly acute” in the public sector calls for some elaboration.

My mayor is on the patrolman’s shit list for doing his job and negotiating for his constituents

His constituents apparently not including any union members?

I thought the mayor of Hoboken was Dawn Zimmer, who would have been on the PBA membership’s shit list in any event for being generally progressive, and who seems to have been politically successful regardless.

However, this is a completely different matter again than negotiating, it is the question of whether unions ought to be allowed to engage in open political activity on behalf of their membership. This is a pretty fundamental and important right, otherwise the only voices in the ears of politicians on matters of labor law are those of management. I appreciate that in the specific case of police unions many of us would just as soon they had less influence, but that’s the price we pay for the ability of worker’s unions to lobby for important social benefits like living wage bills.


Honestly, while I’m in favor of unions in general, I hate police unions specifically.

Because they’ve collectively bargained themselves into being completely above the law and untouchable.

This isn’t canned rhetoric, or speculation either. Cops, over 99% of the time avoid any kind of conviction when they kill people. To the point where they’re acquitted after having shot unarmed people in the back multiple times, as they flee. It’s frankly astounding the crap they get away with.

A literal guy with a gun the courts refuse to ever convict has plenty of bargaining power on his own without the need of a union.


The answer there is stronger civilian oversight. Eliminate the union and what you do is give corrupt senior officers more power to fire whistleblowers.


Cops are civilians. And they somehow have decided that only the cops can hold the cops accountable. Meaning they’ll do what they want, and never ever be held accountable.

And like I said, it’s a literal guy with a gun saying “I don’t want you to look at me, and very bad things could happen if I catch you looking at me.

1 Like

But this isn’t a function of their having a union. The problem is that senior cops don’t want to punish junior cops for bad behavior. That can only be addressed by changing the structural relationship between the department and the municipality. (Which is hard to do of course, not least because large chunks of the population, from the president on down, see nothing wrong with the status quo.)