• Mikie
    6.5k
    I wanted to start a thread about some historic labor developments going on -- not only this year, but over the last several years.

    From the teachers strikes to unionization of Amazon, Starbucks, REI, Apple, this should be being talked about more.

    The latest is Trader Joes, a large grocery store in the US -- roughly 500 stores nationwide. Workers in Massachusetts just voted to unionize. (Here as well.)

    General thoughts?
  • Moliere
    4.3k
    It's about the only good news I see anymore. The IWW has been pushing for unionization efforts in the service sector since at least the late 90's, and I'm very happy to see these fruits -- many failed efforts are finally starting to pay off.
  • Mikie
    6.5k
    It's about the only good news I see anymoreMoliere

    And barely gets reported. Very encouraging signs. A healthy labor movement, starting with strong (strike-ready) unions, is crucial to any positive change were gonna make. Historically this is true as well.
  • ssu
    8.3k
    General thoughts?Xtrix

    The worst faulty idea about trade unions is that they are a socialist endeavour promoting socialism.

    They aren't, actually. They are just a common sense way to deal with your employer.

    This is something that Americans should understand for starters.
  • javi2541997
    5.3k
    The worst faulty idea about trade unions is that they are a socialist endeavour promoting socialism.

    They aren't, actually. They are just a common sense way to deal with your employer.
    ssu

    I think it depends on the country we are talking about. Here in Spain trade unions are literally a way to promote socialism (or classwork-leftist doctrines) against the entrepreneur or employers.
    I am agree with you that it is a group which -supposedly- has the aim to deal with the employer. But this is a leftist position indeed.
    For example: in my country there are three key actors who debate about employee's income: government, CEOE (representatives of entrepreneurs) and UGT (Trade unions)
    Wherever they debate is so clear that trade unions promote: worker rights vs rich privileges; better salaries; less working hours or gender equality, etc...
    These concepts are socialist or at least "social-democrat" doctrine.

    Well you can see it yourself in this image. Look the symbols. Trade unions are a promotion for socialism.


    0a4d7fb687c282fe6b24cda4ba498328--art-posters-modern-history.jpg
  • Jamal
    9.3k
    The worst faulty idea about trade unions is that they are a socialist endeavour promoting socialism.

    They aren't, actually. They are just a common sense way to deal with your employer.
    ssu

    Obviously they can be and have been both.
  • NOS4A2
    8.6k
    I always hated working for a union. Union dues was another tax. Shitty workers never got fired or reprimanded so we all just stooped to their level. It was just another layer of control and bureaucracy. I’d much rather bargain on my own or find better employment.
  • ssu
    8.3k


    But my point is that they are not all political. (Just as not all trade unions have been controlled by the Mafia in the US.) Yes, obviously the link between the trade unions and the left is both historical and present. Yet thinking of stereotypes actually does actually harm in my view
    .

    Of the five million Finns roughly 2 million belong to a trade union, about 69% of the workforce, which means that many of them aren't leftists.

    For example, the vast majority, roughly 98% of the career officers in the Finnish Army belong to a trade union, The Finnish Officers’ Union, which is part of the confederation of unions for professional and managerial staff, AKAVA.

    FYI, Finnish officers really, really aren't socialists and never have been. Career officers cannot join political parties, but can be members of a trade union.

    (A trade union representative talking to new cadets. Note that the officer isn't wearing his uniform when in his role as representing the union.)
    ECU6qtsXUAAmzZe.jpg:large

    I'm not a leftist, but the small impact that trade unions have in the US simply will widen the gap between the rich and the poor and hinder the ability for a larger middle class to grow. People obviously can give examples when trade unions have done things wrong, but in majority of cases for the employees to have bargaining power towards the employers is a good thing.
  • javi2541997
    5.3k
    I'm not a leftist, but the small impact that trade unions have in the US simply will widen the gap between the rich and the poor and hinder the ability for a larger middle class to grow.ssu

    That's true.

    To be honest, I even think that trade unions (as we know it in Europe) do not exist in the USA at all. Probably, this is due to "Truman doctrine" which wanted to erase all "communist" or socialist theories. According to this thesis, trade unions are not allowed in the USA because it is "contrary" to capitalism itself. So, they eradicate all possible interference between a worker with his businessman. It is weird but it looks like they have the thought that "you are poor because you deserve it" and the "businessman doesn't have to pay with his taxes your medicines". They implemented the savage capitalism.

    I am agree with you that in Europe, the trade unions had a more impact. All the progress in terms of healthcare system, public education, or the regulation of working hours came thanks to them.
    But all of these efforts, have come, from a socialist thesis indeed. It has always been a fight between the businessman against the workers.

    Another example: we are currently having a debate in Spain about to increase the minimum income to 1.000 €. The businessmen obviously do not want to but the trade unions are fighting to reach this aim.
    I see it as the classical gap between the rich and the poor. The powerful and the servant. Socialism vs conservatives or "traditionalists"
  • Moliere
    4.3k
    I'd say this isn't lost on the majority of union people. I know that my preferred way of looking at unions is as institutions for working people to obtain power over the economy -- that is, a kind of socialism. I don't have a finger on the pulse anymore so I couldn't say what the beliefs are, but bread-and-butter unionism was the most popular form of unionism in the USA when I was still in the game.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    Trade unions began during the industrial revolution. Lots of workers in one place allowed them to identify together and organise together. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_trade_unions_in_the_United_Kingdom
    Prior to that there were the guilds but these were more of a middle class thing.

    The trade union as a working class institution has lost much of its power because of globalisation and automation; decentralised occupations such as domestic servants restaurant and bar staff, never had much of an organisation or the ability to cause significant disruption by striking.

    I suggest that the current upsurge of interest in trade unions is a manifestation of the loss of power of working people to influence the conditions of their employment. "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone."

    The consumer has been king because mass production was the way to make money, so the masses needed to be paid so they could spend. Robotics and digital printing make mass production unnecessary for sophisticated luxury. The proletariat is no longer of any value, and therefore has no power.
  • ssu
    8.3k
    I know that my preferred way of looking at unions is as institutions for working people to obtain power over the economy -- that is, a kind of socialism.Moliere
    In my view unions are more of a vessel for the employee to face the employer with more weight than just by being individual employees. That hasn't anything to with private property. In fact, many free market libertarians don't have any problem with trade unions... those that aren't mesmerized by the imagination of Ayn Rand.

    To be honest, I even think that trade unions (as we know it in Europe) do not exist in the USA at all. Probably, this is due to "Truman doctrine" which wanted to erase all "communist" or socialist theoriesjavi2541997
    I think the trade union movement was similar to Europe. But there are differences. History from actually the pages of the Department of Justice in the US:

    Labor racketeering has been a crime problem and a social problem since the beginning of the 20th century. There was no concerted political or law enforcement commitment to attacking the problem until the late 1970's and well into the 1980's. Labor racketeering could be studied as a form of organizational crime. It could also be approached from the standpoint of the criminal offenses that it spawns: extortion, embezzlement, fraud, violence, hijacking, restraint of trade, and denial of intangible rights of union members. Yet another option is to approach labor racketeering from the standpoint of the offender, either as a subcategory of white-collar crime or as a subcategory of organized crime. The thesis of this article is that the 20th century history of American organized crime could not be properly written without considering the influence, power, and wealth that the Cosa Nostra crime families derived from their association with international and local unions. The Italian-American organized crime families obtained their foothold in the unions in the 1920's and 1930's when management and labor both called on gangsters for protection and as a counterforce to communist and socialist elements. The Federal Government has attacked Cosa Nostra by powerfully attacking its base in labor unions. The civil Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) has been the greatest tool of the Government’s onslaught.

    Something like this didn't happen in the Nordic countries.
  • Moliere
    4.3k
    In my view unions are more of a vessel for the employee to face the employer with more weight than just by being individual employees. That hasn't anything to with private property. In fact, many free market libertarians don't have any problem with trade unions... those that aren't mesmerized by the imagination of Ayn Rand.ssu

    Historically the US labor movement has been composed of both radical and bread-and-butter elements. Without the bread-and-butter unionism you can't succeed -- the material conditions of the members are the primary focus of a local, which in terms of US unionism usually just means you have some administration around a contract, and the union is the business which services that contract.

    However, without the radical element the labor movement dies -- we see that in the United States as labor bureaucrats pushed out the radical elements in response to anti-communist propaganda. Labor feared being labelled communist and castigated, so they castigated their communist and socialist members to save themselves.


    I agree partly with you. Bread and butter issues are the main forces of a union. But, as we see from the decline of the AFL-CIO from the 50's onward, if you kill the heart of the movement you die.
  • BC
    13.4k
    Unions have self-inflicted wounds, certainly, some of them near fatal. But it Is also the case that unions, unionizing, union leadership, union thinking -- all of it has been subject to really sustained attacks by both corporations and government. Legal barriers have been placed in the way of union formation. Unions are restricted in their ability to support each other (no secondary boycotts, for instance). State governments have stood ready to assist in breaking strikes (like, by protecting scabs crossing picket lines). There are companies specializing in anti-union strategies. There is a strong anti-unionization bias in media. ETC.

    I am very happy to see successful union efforts at Apple or Amazon, but not to get overly excited, these are unions at specific locations--not company-wide unions. These seem to be primarily organizing efforts among younger economically precarious workers, which is another good sign.

    Most American workers, though, young, middle aged, and approaching retirement, are without union representation.

    My work history has been mostly in the non-profit sector--an area as in need of unions as any other, but is additionally hobbled by do-good thinking that discourages unions. I was a member of AFSCME while employed at the University. AFSCME didn't seem to be very effective at this location. Some groups at the U were represented by the Teamster Union, which seemed to be a better representative and organizer.
  • Mikie
    6.5k
    Unions have self-inflicted wounds, certainly, some of them near fatal. But it Is also the case that unions, unionizing, union leadership, union thinking -- all of it has been subject to really sustained attacks by both corporations and government. Legal barriers have been placed in the way of union formation. Unions are restricted in their ability to support each other (no secondary boycotts, for instance). State governments have stood ready to assist in breaking strikes (like, by protecting scabs crossing picket lines). There are companies specializing in anti-union strategies. There is a strong anti-unionization bias in media. ETC.Bitter Crank

    All very important. In terms of the anti-unionization bias, you see it full blown in the UK rail strikes. Mick Lynch has been doing an excellent job in communicating, but look at the spin and slant of the questions he constantly faces. From what I see of the US, they try to ignore strikes and unionization efforts entirely. Now that large companies are being successfully unionized, there's been some renewed interest -- but the slant is still there. You can tell the ideology fairly easily.

    My work history has been mostly in the non-profit sector--an area as in need of unions as any other, but is additionally hobbled by do-good thinking that discourages unions. I was a member of AFSCME while employed at the University. AFSCME didn't seem to be very effective at this location. Some groups at the U were represented by the Teamster Union, which seemed to be a better representative and organizer.Bitter Crank

    We run in similar circles. I was part of a unionization effort in a non-profit as well, in Mass. AFSCME provided some guidance.
  • Mikie
    6.5k
    The worst faulty idea about trade unions is that they are a socialist endeavour promoting socialism.ssu

    Depends on what we mean by socialism. According to some, unionization itself is just one step away from communism. The problem isn't whether unions are socialist, it's why socialism has gotten so demonized that it's assumed unions are "bad" by association.

    Union dues was another tax. Shitty workers never got fired or reprimanded so we all just stooped to their level.NOS4A2

    It's like you're living Fox News talking points. This is what came first, which then inevitably leads to:

    I always hated working for a union.NOS4A2

    Anti-social individualist-minded people who constantly feel they're oppressed, and who were heavily brainwashed with Cold War era propaganda, will predictably feel this way -- about any institution, in fact. Not a surprise.

    But your feelings and anecdotes don't really say much about the labor movement. I know plenty of people who had bad union experiences who are very much in favor of union efforts -- they see their importance and stick around to make them better. Disowning and fleeing is an option, of course. Comes down mostly to temperament. As I said, anti-social personalities aren't a good fit anyway.

    I'd say this isn't lost on the majority of union people. I know that my preferred way of looking at unions is as institutions for working people to obtain power over the economy -- that is, a kind of socialismMoliere

    :up:

    Again, just a matter of semantics. But I tend to agree with the underlying definition of socialism you're using here (power to the people), and so unions are indeed socialist by that standard: they help working people build power.
  • ssu
    8.3k
    However, without the radical element the labor movement dies -- we see that in the United States as labor bureaucrats pushed out the radical elements in response to anti-communist propaganda.Moliere
    Well, looking at my country, or Sweden, I really don't find a "radical element" in our (or the Swedish) labor movement. After all, the Nordic model is called Social corporatism, which is institutionalized and basically part of the political structure in these countries.

    Far away from radicalism.

    According to some, unionization itself is just one step away from communism. The problem isn't whether unions are socialist, it's why socialism has gotten so demonized that it's assumed unions are "bad" by association.Xtrix

    If unionization is one step away from communism, then that 98% of Finnish active officers belong to a trade union makes me smile. After all, it's just an army that has since it's inception fought and prepared to fight Bolshevism, the Soviet Union and Soviet infiltration until the end of the Cold War and basically has been the only institution where Finlandization didn't happen at all. You really will not find in Finnish officer ranks an officer with political ideas like Hugo Chavez.

    But generally I think the basic problem is that many Americans don't understand Social Democracy, or basically don't see it. Socialism is too many times simply related to communism (or earlier Marxism-Leninism) and now the examples given are Venezuela and Cuba.

    Far better example would be the United Kingdom and it's Labour party and politicians like Tony Blair or Gordon Brown (not just Jeremy Corbyn). Looking at the UK, just for example, shows how actually successful social democracy has been. Corporatism and Social Corporatism might seem just one wheel in the capitalist system. In the end economies are a complex thing and there are many unique aspects in the US economy that differ a lot from other countries.
  • Banno
    23.7k
    Unions are a reaction to incorporation.

    Folk group together to form corporations, combining their resources and limiting their liability.

    The balance of power - who gets to do what - then bends towards those incorporations. When such a grouping of people make a contract with an individual, that individual is at a disadvantage because they have less resources and greater liability. (Think Uber's relation to it's "contractors")

    Unionising is a way to counter that bias by grouping those disadvantaged individuals together t increase their resources and decrease their liability.

    The Myth of the Individual in the USA mitigated against the uptake of unions. A Real Man stands on his own, not needing others to help him negotiate his workplace contract.

    Hence the Myth of the Individual helped ceed power to corporations, resulting in the failed democracy that is the modern USA.
  • Mikie
    6.5k
    If unionization is one step away from communism, then that 98% of Finnish active officers belong to a trade union makes me smile. After all, it's just an army that has since it's inception fought and prepared to fight Bolshevism, the Soviet Union and Soviet infiltration until the end of the Cold War and basically has been the only institution where Finlandization didn't happen at all. You really will not find in Finnish officer ranks an officer with political ideas like Hugo Chavez.ssu

    Yeah, it's pretty silly. But again, depends on how we're defining communism and socialism. By how I think of the terms, unions are certainly communist and socialist -- but so what?

    True, it's a bad as labeling yourself a satanist in this country. But that's because of propaganda. Still, not the best marketing strategy.

    Far better example would be the United Kingdom and it's Labour party and politicians like Tony Blair or Gordon Brown (not just Jeremy Corbyn).ssu

    A far better example of what? Blair was a much a neoliberal as anyone.

    The Myth of the Individual in the USA mitigated against the uptake of unions. A Real Man stands on his own, not needing others to help him negotiate his workplace contract.

    Hence the Myth of the Individual helped ceed power to corporations, resulting in the failed democracy that is the modern USA.
    Banno

    Yes indeed. Reagan helped perpetuate this bullshit "cowboy"-type version of the "true" manly American as well. The neoliberal policies that followed are no surprise, using this myth as window dressing. The country, and the world, has payed the price these last 40 years.
  • Tate
    1.4k
    The Myth of the Individual in the USA mitigated against the uptake of unions. A Real Man stands on his own, not needing others to help him negotiate his workplace contract.

    Hence the Myth of the Individual helped ceed power to corporations, resulting in the failed democracy that is the modern USA.
    Banno

    I'm afraid this is a myth. Unions, protected by the US government, were incredibly powerful until the 1980s. Stagflation and Reagan: the one two punch, killed their power.

    As others have commented, unions were always a two edged sword, not nearly as romantic as we'd like to think.
  • Tate
    1.4k
    One thing you do need to understand about the American labor movement is that it only existed in the first place due to federal backing, originally by Teddy Roosevelt and then Wilson. In Wilson's case it was in line with his progressive Christianity.

    After WW2, domestic policy was behind strong unions. That changed in the 1980s, and unions started to disappear. So American unions were always part of the way the US government pushed back against the control of industrialists. Then the US was de-industrialized, automated, and labor was outsourced oversees. A large chunk of the labor force today is just temporarily working on contract. There's no way to return to the days of powerful unions.
  • Mikie
    6.5k
    One thing you do need to understand about the American labor movement is that it only existed in the first place due to federal backingTate

    Not remotely true.

    There's no way to return to the days of powerful unions.Tate

    Says who?
  • NOS4A2
    8.6k


    Anti-social individualist-minded people who constantly feel they're oppressed, and who were heavily brainwashed with Cold War era propaganda, will predictably feel this way -- about any institution, in fact. Not a surprise.

    But your feelings and anecdotes don't really say much about the labor movement. I know plenty of people who had bad union experiences who are very much in favor of union efforts -- they see their importance and stick around to make them better. Disowning and fleeing is an option, of course. Comes down mostly to temperament. As I said, anti-social personalities aren't a good fit anyway.

    Have you ever worked for a union?
  • Tate
    1.4k
    One thing you do need to understand about the American labor movement is that it only existed in the first place due to federal backing
    — Tate

    Not remotely true.
    Xtrix

    Yea, it's true.
  • Pie
    1k
    They are just a common sense way to deal with your employer.ssu

    Socialism is a commonsense way for the wee folk to deal with the oligarchs ? (OK, maybe I just mean I'd the US to be more like Denmark.)
  • Pie
    1k
    As others have commented, unions were always a two edged sword, not nearly as romantic as we'd like to think.Tate

    Hoffa and mob stuff comes to mind, but then I think we just need unions that are harder to corrupt. We need to keep trying to find corruption-resistant social structures.
  • Pie
    1k
    Unionising is a way to counter that bias by grouping those disadvantaged individuals together to increase their resources and decrease their liability.Banno

    :up:

    The rich don't want to the poor to follow their example (it's the spectre of communism when the poor attain class consciousness.)
  • Tate
    1.4k
    Hoffa and mob stuff comes to mind, but then I think we just need unions that are harder to corrupt. We need to keep trying to find corruption-resistant social structures.Pie

    Power corrupts. Per legend, union stewards were usually the scum of the earth.
  • Mikie
    6.5k
    Yea, it's true.Tate

    No, it’s not close to true. Feel free to pick up literally any book about it. The labor movement far predates any “government backing,” Teddy Roosevelt, or Woodrow Wilson.

    Stop talking nonsense.
  • Pie
    1k
    Power corrupts. Per legend, union stewards were usually the scum of the earth.Tate

    Power corrupts. That's the problem. How can we make power fragile and responsive to the people? But we need also worry about the madness of mobs. Let's just say it's not an easy problem, and I hope humans will figure something out without really expecting it much. I've been looking into web3 ideas which may be a bit utopian at this point but which seem better to me than complacence.
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