On Making Unions a Productive Social Force

It has become fashionable to criticize unions in the US, when many of their shortcomings result from corrupt or at best unimaginative leadership. The fact that we have child labor laws, restrictions on working hours, workplace safety rules, were all the result of hard fought battles by workers. And as an article in Foreign Affairs stresses (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck), Europe has much less income inequality than the US, which the author George Packer sees as a serious and difficult to remedy contributor to America’s decline. Strong unions have been a significant contributor to Europe’s less skewed distribution.

This discussion on Real News Network describes how unions have unduly narrowed their focus and gives some ideas and examples for ways they could be more effective on their own behalf and for the broader community

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  1. Paul Tioxon

    This question of an organized labor, unions, in coalition with, I don’t know, the National Association of ArrowHead collectors, and unions negotiating on behalf of greater social goals, such as universal health care or taxing the Wall St transaction at a nickel a trade is a joke. Other than PR value, and gimmicks like this are trotted out as the weakness of unions as being self serving, and selling out for an extra buck an hour raise, rather than standing up to the entire power structure in hopes of some greater good. Unions are institutions of survival in the face of direct violent and unrelenting force, economic, political and social aimed at the permanent relegation of workers to menial servitude.

    To begin with, unions are being taken apart legally at the state level, and if all of the Obama haters here on NC have their way, they will lose every right to exist at all. Collective bargaining for wages, benefits and work conditions will go, along with previous leverage over outsourcing and some long ago and far away demands for racial integration, banning child labor and other fancy stuff for the dangerous classes. Unions were illegal, other than as mutual benefit associations for burial, hospitalization, very small charitable type of activities for a very long time in America

    The thought of workers in one factory much less an entire industry getting together and demanding through collective negotiations, the price of wages, the terms of hours and days off, the actual conditions of work, was considered illegal interference into the company’s property and owners right to manage as they saw fit. Roosevelt getting behind and recognizing unions and setting up a National Labor Relations Board to adjudicate negotiations, to promote social harmony, was a government mandate. Unions had little size or power before this legal recognition. Without the force of law and the willingness of the government to keep violent suppression of workers off of the table, there would be no unions.

    Now, the union movement has steadily eroded. And not due the fact that Jimmy Hoffa is every guilty white liberals worst nightmare because he is not some sort of Saint Dr Martin Luther King. It is not union leadership that has failed to take on the greater good, it is the politicians whose job it is specifically to represent the whole of the nation, not the one factory owner here or one industry there, but the whole of society. Unions are formal organizations, with a legal franchise such as corporations have. While they certainly can influence policy by speaking up against the wars, the injustices, they can’t negotiate racism or sexism away, even if they outlaw its practices within their organizations, much less build a new society.

    I would like to see the reaction on the face of the readers here when I demand that the minimum wage be set for all workers, part time, full time, agricultural migrant workers, domestics, restaurant workers, everyone. No waivers on Federal minimum wages. If you work, all across the country, the least you will be paid for any work is the minimum wage. And it should be higher than $7.25/hr.

    You think the unions should have fought for that. How about the mighty FDR, why didn’t he get it for all of those poor Southerners working in the fields? The history of the New Deal, The White New Deal, is a minefield of sellouts, betrayals and hypocrisy that has not been righted to this day. So, please, it is mighty white of all of you to interview a progressive union critic of unions, but save your open mindedness for some one who will challenge you with more than the failure of unions to fight harder for a better world. At their height, they would not have represented a majority of the population, so then, their victories would be impositions on a larger world they were not formed to represent, and further more, a larger world who had no say in their leadership or policies. That would still be the elected politicians. Look over there again.

    While unions have gotten smaller, less powerful, and less mindful of the greater good, it is not due to short sightedness, but ongoing class warfare, that the rest of the middle class is now getting a double barrel of.

    1. LucyLulu

      To begin with, unions are being taken apart legally at the state level, and if all of the Obama haters here on NC have their way, they will lose every right to exist at all.

      Has Obama stood up for the unions or done anything to promote their existence? If so, when? I must have missed it.

      1. Eric

        Federal participation in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies had very directly advanced the interests of UAW members – both active and retired – well beyond what probably would have been the result without such participation. The health care reform act also has provisions of great benefit to the UAW. The NLRB issued a finding very much in favor of Boeing’s unions not long ago. Funding in the stimulus act of 2009 and further funds in the summer of 2010 were appropriated that went to states, which in turn went to prevent or minimize job losses, a high percentage of which were union positions. It is nonsense to say that this current administration has done little for unions. Card check didn’t pass. It wasn’t that great an idea anyway.

        1. rotter

          I remember the Unions being strong armed by govt. during the Auto industry bailouts which were, as i recal treated like welfare payments anyway, while this admistration literally hands over blank checks to the finance industry and tells them to write them for as much as they want. The finance worshiping, bank coddling obama admin. is no freind of workers. They do as little as they can get away with for unions and still be able to call them for money. This is a Democrat, remeber? He still wants money from unions. This preseident is pushing the same job destroying “free trade” agreements as bush and clinton, with both hands. Maybe thats great for Boeing, what about the rest of us??

    2. Gerard Pierce

      Obama said he’d dig up a pair of comfortable shoes to walk the line himself to defend union positions around the country. When the unions needed him most in Wisconson, he couldn’t be counted on for even lip service.

    3. psychohistorian


      You know I am way supportive of dealing with our problems but setting an arbitrary national minimum wage has a downside now that it didn’t have back when it was “invented”.

      The downside is international competitiveness for a decreasing number of jobs. I think that rampant consumerism is on the decline and along with it, lots of direct and indirect labor.

      Folks don’t talk about the fact that there are not and will not be enough “jobs” to go around in society’s future given our current social organization. Are we going to allow societal genocide to occur to balance the population to the needed workforce of our class based system? Gag!!!

      We can’t solve the problems we have by using the solutions that got us to this point.

      Its new paradigm time!!

      1. Barbyrah

        “Its new paradigm time!!”


        And one need not look very far to discover…people are actually beginning to consider the idea…of “doing civilization”…in a whole new way.

      2. Paul Tioxon

        I have your new paradigm right here: 3 day work week. With non stop productivity gains of the last 125 years, we do not need to work as much. We went from 6 days a week and 12 hours a day, to 40hrs/week and the 5 day work week. Since that benchmark, even more productivity gains bring us to the need to free ourselves from corporate slavery of having to work when our social system can grow all of the calories, and protein grams we need to eat and manufacture everything else we could want, but didn’t know we needed til after we bought it. We are moving into the drone economy, where few people are needed to pilot computer controlled factories that will only be occasionally entered by engineers for maintenance, after they are initially set up.

        Unions know that the economy is more productive and labor has been reduced to the point where there is no labor to reduce and get a return on the labor saving investment for most of the mass production industries that are the backbone of high consumption consumerism. Steel has reduced 99% of the labor once used at the beginning of the 20th century.

        So ideas for unions to become more productive for whom? Political change? Unions know what seems to be a shocking discovery by Yves, Marshall Auerbach and all of the other Wall St industry types who can’t believe how government and business collude together. Simon Johnson’s sinister pronouncement of a financial coup d’ tat would be laughable if there wasn’t so much misery and ruin being generated by Wall St. today. Many union leaders and union members did not want to have a god damn thing to do with government, they would rather take their chances themselves because they knew that all of the lawmakers were friends if not the captains of industry themselves. And even when laws were passed, the Supreme Court, a big collection of corporate attorneys would strike down anything that interfered with capitalism.

        Labor Unions have had all the big ideas they can handle, the problem is they have no power. The only reason there is even a passing allowance of unionizing activity allowed and collective bargaining tolerated for one second, is that the unions know and the moderate conservatives know, that a murderous onslaught of private and state sponsored violent force would be unleashed, if the labor movement did not take the offerings of NLRB, and they pressed on with sit down strikes, industrial sabotage, rioting, assassinations of management and so and so forth. The labor unions are outgunned by the state, which will bring out the Army with live ammo to kill any serious change to the political structure of this nation.

        Once again, unions are survival organizations in the face of violent organized political opposition to the 99% of the population unfortunate enough to born unworthy of wealth.

      3. jonboinAR

        The food group that needs to be added to our plate of enriched minimum wage is a nice healthy helping of good old fashioned tariff-style protectionism.

      4. run75441


        The paradigm is such that direct labor cost has littel to do with the cost of manufacturing, look elsewhere for the difference. Sandwichman and Chapman suggest the 40 hour work week is long dead.

    4. wafranklin

      The elites, plantation types, mill lords, mine owners, railroad magnates, etc. in the South, including NC, fought unions viciously –because the did not want poor whites and blacks to find common cause. This included murder, lynching, torture, etc. to whole families, particularly black people. And lo, NC has less union presence than anywhere in the US, and is proud of their “right to work laws” and employment at will statutes. Their strategies of terror and death worked! Even today, with few or no unions, the Republican Legislature indicted the teachers’s association as a union and stopped payment of any dues directly from the state to the association. Pitiful.

    5. okie farmer


      “At their height, they would not have represented a majority of the population, so then, their victories would be impositions on a larger world they were not formed to represent, and further more, a larger world who had no say in their leadership or policies. That would still be the elected politicians. Look over there again.”

      This is exactly where we should “look”. And for some of the reasons given in the interview and in these comments, that is exactly what the Unions have NOT understood. If the Unions had spent the million$ on registering working people to vote instead of giving those million$ to the Democratic Party, they could have EASILY shaped a politics that was egalitarian for not only themselves but for working people generally. If Unions had the best interests of the country in mind they would have oraganized the AAWP and enrolled tens of millions of working folks (just like the AARP did with retirees before they were bought off by the insurance sector), sent a monthly magazine to educate and indoctrinate – to teach what true working class self interest looks like. If the Unions had built an American Association of Working People, instead of pursuing their narrower self interest, can you imagine what 50 million more progressive leaning voters would do to our politics?

      And don’t say it can’t be done, it HAS been done. When the Rainbow Coalition registered 8 million new, mostly black voters in the southern and border states and delivered Congress back to the Dems the power of voter registration frightened the living shit out of the establishment politicos of DC so much that even the Dems ran away from the Coalition, then bribed Jesse Jackson to cease and desist. When the Repubs took down ACORN they killed what little was left of voter registration efforts aimed at poor and working poor in US. And Dems never lifted a voice.

      Unions still have the money and manpower to create a AAWP, but as the interviewee said, their leadership has been shortsighted and too narrow in their focus. The Unions have the power to ‘take back america’, they just won’t do it.

    6. rd

      Everybody likes to say they are “sustainable.”

      Unfortunately, once basic demands of safety, working hours etc. were addressed, the unions forgot that “sustainable” meant helping the employers remain functioning entities in the long-term.

      Labor that helps in bankrupting the employers does not help its own long-term survival. We are seeing the end-result of massive incompetence of both the employers and labor leaders.

    7. Tao Jonesing

      Thanks for this, Paul. Passion is a rare thing around here these days in this bloodless version of NC.

      P.S. I probably count as one of your “Obama haters,” but I dislike the man for his adoption of actions and policies designed to destroy the middle class from which I sprang.

      The strange thing is that part of me is convinced that Obama is merely securing FDR’s true legacy rather than tearing down the myth built around him. The New Deal is now old and, therefore, no longer operative. It was not designed to be more than a temporary measure. The top 0.1% started stealing back what the New Deal allegedly gave up back in the late 1960s (which explains “stagflation”).

  2. LucyLulu

    Excellent interview. Sam Gindin has some truly creative and out-of-the box thinking, the type that our unions need. Is there some way we can get Sam Gindin to come to the US to help our workers?

    Agreed that our unions once served a valuable function to earn better wages and working conditions but they then used their power to make excessive demands, leading to their downfall. With their fall however, wages and benefits for all workers have declined, which I can’t help but think are related. When the workers were protesting in Wisconsin and conservatives were asking why they should have pensions when non-union employees did not, the more appropriate question should have been to ask why it was that non-union employees didn’t have pensions. Pensions were standard fare thirty or forty years ago, until being replaced by 401K’s, using with matching contributions. Now, even the matches are falling off. Between unemployment, debt, low wages, low returns on investments, and the uncertain future of social security, how will young people of today fund their retirements, not to mention pay for skyrocketing healthcare costs? (Alan Grayson’s description of the GOP plan is particularly apropos: Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.)

    1. annieb

      ” Pensions were standard fare thirty or forty years ago, until being replaced by 401K’s, using with matching contributions. Now, even the matches are falling off.”

      Falling off? How about never there in the first place. I am continually amazed at the number of readers of even sophisticated blogs like NC who seem to think that 401(k) plans have some sort of mandated matching contribution. They don’t. I do not and never had matches to 401(k) plans, neither has my husband, or any of my siblings that are “fortunate” enough to have employers that even offer them. What we have is what we put into them, period, while the employer gets whatever free lunches and Xmas gifts or whatever the plan administrators throws their way for their “business,” which is simply choosing the plan that we are then stuck with.

      And don’t get me started on the headache of when a former employer changes plan administrators, and all of the sudden you’ve got to deal with the fact that they no longer want to administer your fund, so move it. 401(k) plans are a nightmare way to fund retirement, even if you’re religious about “paying yourself first.”

    2. editor_u

      “Agreed that our unions once served a valuable function to earn better wages and working conditions but they then used their power to make excessive demands, leading to their downfall.”


      When you say the unions made “excessive” demands did you have something specific in mind?

    3. Soullite

      That is not at all what happened. Here is what really happened.

      Back in 1972, there was a protest movement against the Vietnam war led primarily by over-privileged college kids. This movement was opposed by many unions, particularly the so-called ‘hard hat’ unions. Unfortunately, the dickbags in those unions couldn’t resist cracking heads, so the college kids grew up with a massive grudge against them.

      When those now-grown over-privileged college kids went on to become members of the Democratic establishment in the 80’s, they essentially decided to get back at the unions by having the Democratic party withdraw support for working class and union issues and form ties with Wall Street.

      Too late, Union leadership realized that it fucked itself over by acting like a bunch of fascist thugs back in ’72, and decided it might be best to be at least friendly with the anti-war movement, but by then the damage was done. Those over-privileged college douche-bags would never get over the way they were treated, and so they decided to fuck over millions of people because of it.

      THAT, more than anything else, is why the union movement is so moribund today. Union thuggery in support of the Vietnam war + a bunch of upper-class douchebags not getting over their butthurt = Nobody in power willing to support the working class.

      1. rotter

        You missed the part about why the “hardhat” unions were so reactionary, having been completely taken over by right wing “anti communist” infiltrators and govt plants in the 30’s. The “anti communist” stance was also the rationalization for making unions capitralism freindly, and therefore, management-worker class system freindly. They werent before that.

      2. SidFinster

        Both of you are onto something, even if you come at it from opposite tacks.

        A lot of the problem with the Democratic Party today is its obsession with identity politics at the expense of actual working-class folks.

  3. Patrick

    I have some experience organizing – In the early 2000’s I was part of a drive to organize a smallish tech company. In some ways I’m sympathetic to the Marxist, class based view of the world, but the evidence that it has anything to offer is pretty scant. Capitalists aren’t the problem. Especially in an age where anyone can be a capitalist if they have a computer and an internet connection. I’m convinced that labour has more in common with shareholders (by shareholder I mean someone who actually owns and holds) than either would like to admit. The enemy is the corrupt so-called professional management class with their perverse incentives to tunnel wealth out of the firm and allocate it to themselves, and the modern financial speculators who do nothing but skim fees from trading churn and the creation of fraudulent paper fictions.

    I think unions – especially big unions like the auto workers – should seriously consider buying shares in the firms whose workers they represent. Imagine how history might have been different had GM had been an employee owned firm! If they had started buying GM stocks back in 1936, it might well have been.

    1. different clue

      I remember reading somewhere that in the very early 1950’s, the antiUnion Congress passed a very antiUnion act forbidding unions from buying significant amounts of shares in the industries whose workers they represented. And the President signed that act into law. I can’t remember the name of that act.

      Reagan and Bush pursued Free Trade in order to underprice and undermine American unionized industries with antiUnion foreign imports designed to shrink or exterminate those industries in order to shrink or exterminate those industries’s industrial unions. No more industry . . . no more industrial unions. Very simple. And it was the DLC so-called “Democratic” President Clinton who was finally able to achieve the Republican OverClass dream with his NAFTA and his WTO membership “for” America and his MFN status for China. Do we blame the unions for that?

      And I have to repeat the question asked above . . . has Obama lifted a finger for public sector unions in the States where they are suffering Republican aggression? But on the other hand, he DOES want a Free Trade Pact with union-busting Columbia. South Korea is fairly unionized but Obama must think that South Korean imports could further destroy what American industrial unions are left. Otherwise, why would he support it? He and his fellow Third Way filth?

    2. Jesse

      A few years ago, the UAW agreed to a deal which had Ford pay them in both Ford stock and cash (instead of just cash) to fund their healthcare trust for retired workers. I think the UAW dumped the shares: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/business/articles/2010/03/29/20100329biz-ford-UAW0330.html

      I personally think workers should own big positions in their company for incentive reasons, and it’d also encourage unions to police themselves and get rid of the (relatively rare) “leech” types. Perhaps this is a good model for the future.

      1. Melody

        Investment in company stock worked so well for all those Enron employees, didn’t it? Well–at least those who were at the top of the food chain, cashed out BEFORE the multi-day suspension of Enron stock trades–owning company stock worked quite well, thank you. For the middle-class worker–who saw his company-stock-based retirement disappear–he could plan a new career, WALMART greeter.

        1. Jesse

          Enron collapsed because it was a scam, and the regular employees didn’t own anything close to a majority stake. Your criticism also applies to the two comments above me that advocated the same thing idea.

        2. Patrick

          Enron is actually the poster child for why employee ownership and representation on the board is crucial. “Management” doesn’t see past their next bonus, and if the firm is largely held by hedgies (for example) with a short time horizons then you’re in for pump and dump. Only the employees and any long term owners (who are few and far between) care about the long term health of the firm. Had their been employee representation on the Enron board, there is no way they would have allowed what happened to happen.

      2. SidFinster

        Something like that is already mandated by law in Germany, where unions are guaranteed representation on the supervisory boards of large enterprises.

        This is very clever, because it forces management/capital and unions to notice and account for each other’s positions, and also to take joint responsibility rather a more adversarial position.

        Interestingly, there were similar proposals in England and (IIRC) the US, and the unions wanted no part of them.

  4. Phichibe


    Wonderful post. The Democratic party has done so little for unions since Jimmy Carter that it’s no wonder that the AFL-CIO has decided to keep their PAC money for themselves in 2012 rather than give it to the DNC.

    A sign of the times: Jerry Brown, quondam liberal and once and current governor of California, vetoed not one but two pro-union bills in the last 4 months: a card-check bill for farm workers in June, and just last month a bill that would have allowed day-care workers to unionize. It’s a further sign of the times that the neither the national nor the California media highlighted either decision. I, a former Californian of nearly 20 years who keeps track of the developments there daily via the SF Chronicle and the LA Times, was totally unaware of the card-check veto until nearly a month after the event.

    Strong unions are a critical component in evening the playing field between the forces of (near monopoly) capital and labor when it comes to the distribution of profits from commerce. Our country will not redress the wealth imbalance until we re-empower unions and challenge the anti-union bias of many ill-informed Americans. As you point out, the move for a 40 hour work week, child labor laws, workplace safety laws – all these would not have occurred if we had left ourselves to the tender mercies of the wealthy owners of corporate America.

    Best wishes,


  5. Middle Seaman

    The idea that the shrinking role of the unions is at least in part the fault of unions is shocking. I was out of the country for several good months when Reagan fired all striking air traffic controllers. Reagan was promoted for decades by enemies of the unions. No matter what the union did, Reagan’s actions were predetermined. You can add to the list Scott Walker and Kasich and way too many others (including Obama).

    Today’s unions are sophisticated operations with databases, research departments, young people and a lot of knowledge of running a union, campaigns and elections.

    Even in high school, 50+ years ago, the increase in affluence made many of my classmates anti union. Once we got fatter we felt that we are better than the diet limited workers.

    I see little merit in what the video discusses. The way to go is probably the way Occupy goes. That is, demolish the moral standing of the rich and the owners. We, the workers, will step in and assert ourselves. Unions will be a big part of it.

    “Obama haters”: We don’t hate Obama; it’s just the fact that he is incompetent and the best friend of the oligarchs. Hate is not involved.

    1. citalopram

      The way to fight getting fired as an air traffic controller is with a general strike, where a majority of the populace takes to the streets, blocks traffic and services. If Americans were class conscious instead of rabidly individualistic, Reagan’s attempts at union busting would have failed. Once again, Americans are reaping what their selfishness has sown.

      1. Eric

        Reagan’s administration enforced a statute that was on the books prior to him becoming President. And apparently it was properly enforced as legal attempts by PATCO members to recover their jobs all failed.

        1. Nathanael

          Back then, we still believed that the rule of law existed in this country.

          Now, with the government violating the Bill of Rights left and right (double entendre intended), with banks stealing homes with fabricated documents, with the President literally claiming the unreviewable power to assassinate American citizens, with the police assualting lawyers with motorcycles, then arresting the lawyers and “disappearing” them without access to *their* lawyers — we all know the rule of law doesn’t exist any more, at least not in large parts of the country.

          This, in a certain sense, unshackles the workers. If the boss is above the law, why the hell should you follow the law either? When the elites rule only through brute force, their rule is very unstable.

  6. Jane Doe

    The core issue, I think, is that many progressive leaning organizations, including unions, have taken on the tone of Reaganism without knowing it: Until recently unions have been in it for themselves (“roughed individuals”), which had lead to dividing and conquering the left, or workers or unions. Not to be cliched, but we will be in this together, or we will sink apart, and until recently, unions did not get this basic idea.

    So, why are we like this? Why are also unions like this? Why “roughed individualism”?

    We are all children of Reagan. We are still motivated by things like personal responsibility (we don’t discuss on the left enough about the “system” and spend too much time on individual villains just to name one example).” This does not mean there aren’t real villains. It just means if you get rid of one crop- another will pop up to take its place. That’s because our real issue is a system of corruption.

    The effect of all of this is that our organizations take on that corruption. They are not concerned with systems. They are transactional and moment to movement just like individuals are: Trying to keep a hold of what they already have (which leads to accepting corruption); and not looking at the big picture at all (which asks what is the root cause of corruption and how do we end that even if it means short term sacrifice). All of this short term thinking is how the “roughed individual” sees the world because for the individual its about individual survival, and again, and not the big picture.

    I had mentioned to someone that I wanted to write an article. That article would focus on how corruption, for example, is now normalized (and how it becomes normalized), and, in fact, is a system rather than any one individual in America. This is why single cycle elections aren’t going to change a thing. You would have to replace the system to end corruption. Replacing individuals is not enough to change the system unless you identify and correct the problem as a systemic problem.

    A practical example: The value of solidarity is that we all rise together, rather than just union workers, because on the next go around capital will always come after unions after they go after non-unionized workers. And in each cycle, every ship will sink a little further as the water in the lake decreases for all who are floating on the water. To think of all of this an ecological system of corruption rather than individual transactions, that’s what the unions need to do, and that will save them.

    This is why I was happy to see some of their recent stances. I hope they broaden that approach.

    1. psychohistorian

      I gagged when I read your line about how we are all children of Saint Ronnie.

      Some of us saw through the BS way before Saint Ronnie, including most of the rest of the world.

      I have a picture of an advert of the side of a double decker bus in England circa 1986 that shows Saint Ronnie with an Einstein hairdoo and words that said: Sharpe calculators can make anyone a genius.

      Saint Ronnie represented a major step backward in societal advancement as well as tripling the national debt which subsequent presidents keep trying to better.

      Laugh the global inherited rich out of control of our society and into rooms at the Hague

  7. Jane Doe

    A really practical example: When there was an announced compromise in the Obama health care bill that would have carved out an exception for unions- many of them ceased on this as a chance for them, but ignored that the bill would have adversely impacted other workers. It was the kind of short term judgment that harms both the union and other workers.

    1. bobok

      How about this? Why don’t all you non-union liberals organize your own workplace instead of telling us what we need to do? Once you fight hired thugs on the picket line, pay dues and do all the other work it takes to build a vibrant organization, you might actually know what solidarity looks like. I’m all for getting creative and sticking it to the bosses any way we can, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna take heat from a bunch of people who are too lazy or stupid to do the hard work of organizing.

      1. annieb

        Thank you. And in a post-industrial world, capital can fairly easily “dba” something else if workers get too uppity.

        One of the challenges of organizing in the past few decades–and I’ve been an organizer–is that there is no shared space of solidarity in the modern economy. There hasn’t been one since the demise of the shop floor as an experience fairly widely held. When I was in college, I worked one winter as part-time extra help to fill Christmas orders in a shop making the cheapest stereo speakers imaginable. Six hour shifts, no bathroom breaks, unsafe working conditions (you learn real fast how many times you can fire the hydraulic staple gun before the chamber with stripped threads blows off, and when you get close to the limit, the quality of the work goes down because you aren’t looking right at it, just to keep your head from getting hammered). Paid minimum wage plus a piecework rate. For about one and a half shifts we all kvetched about how the day shift left us not even one piece of partially finished work to get the line going when we came in. Then we naturally organized ourselves into having the fastest people at the top of the line at the beginning of shift and moving to the bottom of the line at the end of the shift. That’s solidarity.

        One of the things most impressive to me about #Occupy is its spatial component–it recognizes that solidarity doesn’t happen between your ears, it happens between you and the people next to you. And if work environments don’t provide that, then take to the streets.

        1. Jane Doe

          Occupy new york has zero to do with how the unions have acted over the last few decades. While the unions have focused on “every man for himself” (by supporting only unions) in terms of policies coming out of politics , the Occupy movement has focused on the issue that there is something wrong with our system. I am glad the unions are own board this argument. Its certainly something they should have been supporting along time ago as a movement rather than just focusing on their own myopic interests without fully embracing that those interests are part of a wider system of workers.

          Like I said, it is only recently that I have truly seen a small change. Whether that will trickle into policies, like with the Obama health bill so that the next time such an issue comes up they don’t sell out other workers in favor of their union members, I can not say. But, that would be a great transformation.

          Finally, let me add- I am not anti union. The fact I have to say that means you and the other person just can not tolerate criticism so you must now demonize the messenger.

      2. Jane Doe

        You just proved my point about “roughed individualism” dominating the thinking of unions in this country.

        Look at what you did in response to an example of “every man for himself.” You suggested more “every man for himself.”

        Thus, ensure your own failure because you lack any understanding of systems. When unions go into negotiation- capital wills say, “you know I can’t pay you or give you benefits that high because nonunion shops pay and give so much less benefits.”

        Rather than fighting for all workers, the result is you in the long run kill yourselves.

        1. reslez

          But you still want unions to fight on your behalf while you do nothing to help them in return. Union gains have translated into better conditions for all workers as others in this thread have repeatedly observed (40 hour work week, child labor, etc.). Today unions are fighting for survival and choose the battles they can win. Did you consider the very reason the elites accepted the deal to preserve union health benefits was because non-union workers would resent it? You keep saying unions are the ones pursuing “every man for himself” when the fact is they utilize collective bargaining that many non-union workers reject out of (short-sighted) individualism.

          1. Nathanael

            I’ll be blunt: the smart unions are assisting in the organization of the many non-union shops where the workers want to organize — without dominating or controlling them.

            The not-so-smart unions, well, aren’t.

  8. vlade


    While I believe unions do have a role (but not where they can hold a third party hostage, such as RMT in London Tube holding Londoners hostage), but saying “when many of their shortcomings result from corrupt or at best unimaginative leadership” is so generic that the sentence could start with a lot of other things (“politicians”, “company boards”, etc.).

    In other words, unions are no better (and no worse) than any other lobbying/power group with elected leadership.

  9. Thorstein

    Having lately re-read Howard Zinn’s *People’s History of the United States*, it is apparent to me that the Gompers-model unions have been a part of the problem ever since their creation. Much of the “progressive legislation” that unions currently try to take credit for was granted to the workers only because the American oligarchs feared the emergence of a Socialist Party or a united union like the IWW. Better to divide-and-conquer that incipient unified labor movement with industrial unions. So the oligarchs allowed U.S. labor only a kind of labor capitalism in which auto workers, health care workers, electrical workers could all seek benefits, but only for themselves, and if at the expense of the oligarchs, then also at the expense of the common wealth. Once the unions accept the idea that they were never a good idea, then perhaps they can do as the interview suggests, and become something better.

    1. Nathanael

      The banning of the general strike and the sympathy strike is a large part of the neutering of unions. Unions should never, ever have accepted those restrictions, though I see why they did it.

  10. Darren Kenworthy

    Did unions make choices about tactics, structure or message that increased their vulnerability to elite manipulation and attack? Does the philosophy and practice of organizing labor need to change substantially to be effective now and in the future?

    It might not be useful to ask these questions in the context of moral fault (we already know whose ‘fault’ the decreased power of labor is) but honest, dispassionate consideration of the them might suggest courses of action as we seek to rectify the situation.

  11. Woodrow Wilson

    “Strong unions have been a significant contributor to Europe’s less skewed distribution.” –

    Great, although I’m not sure I would want to use Europe as a role model for us here in The United States, you know, seeing how well they’re doing.

    While there is a lot to thank unions for over the past century, one only needs to come here, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts to see nothing has changed for unions. Unions run everything here, and with a State Legislature fully in support of unions, no reason to think things will change, especially in the public sector (Why bother going to college when you too can make $100k/yr with a HS Diploma?).

    Unions here (in MA) take away Free Will, in some cases, you are forced to join a union if you want a certain job (closed shop), mostly in the public sector. Why? Because they’re good for me? What if I don’t believe in them? Oh that’s right, join or don’t take this job, there is no option. After years of being forced in a disgusting and corrupt union as a police officer, I’ll take a pass. Oh wait, you can’t because you’re forced to be in the union if you want to do the career you wanted. Yes, that makes sense.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Nah, you’d rather be at the mercy of the corrupt and unaccountable plutocracy. They are so much more moral and upright than those dirty unionists.

      1. Woodrow Wilson

        “Nah, you’d rather be at the mercy of the corrupt and unaccountable plutocracy. They are so much more moral and upright than those dirty unionists.” –

        No, I think they both suck.

          1. Woodrow Wilson

            “but you’d still rather be at the mercy of an unaccountable plutocracy. Okay.” –

            That’s you saying that shit, not me.

            I don’t think I can be any clearer: Unions AND Plutocrats suck.

            If you think unions are the way to go, so be it, you’re not going to change my viewpoint that it’s six-in-one and half-a-dozen in the other.

        1. YankeeFrank

          If you don’t pick a side, you default to allowing the plutocrats to run your life as they are in command. That’s reslez’s point.

    2. reslez

      Great, although I’m not sure I would want to use Europe as a role model for us here in The United States, you know, seeing how well they’re doing.

      Europe is in a currency union that causes sovereign debt problems. Their other crises have the exact same source as the U.S.: looting elites destroying the safety net of the middle class.

  12. Barbyrah

    From the interview:

    “We’re at a point where we really are talking about cultural change. And that the culture of capitalism is bankrupt..What we have to do is give the people confidence that it’s possible to change this.”

    Cultural change.

    Translate: This ain’t about tweaking “The System.”

    It’s about transforming/transmuting it.

  13. avgJohn

    U.S industry unions are special interests unto themselves. Teamsters are for the truckers, Teacher Unions are for teachers, UAW is for auto workers, BLET is for railroad workers, USW are for steel workers,and so and so forth.

    If they had banded together to develop something like an Workers National Oversight Committee, and had developed and acted on a vision and shared set of common concerns on labor issues in the 80’s, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Can you imagine if the Teachers, Railroad Workers, Auto Workers and the other workers would have demanded accountability from the Reagan administration or effectively went on a national strike, turned off the lights, shut down the telephone service, shut the wheels of production down, shut down all but the most critical goods movement of materials and goods, and said No WAY?

    Our grandparents(great-grand parents) are probably rolling in their graves to see how quickly and easily the blood they shed to organize and fight for labor rights in this country has been washed away in a few short years.

    Now, we have teachers going house-to-house, ringing our door bells, with petitions in hand, asking us to repeal this and that legislation, to save their jobs and their handsome pensions. But ask them “Where were you when they were shipping all of our jobs off shore, where were you when they shut down the factory and steel mill and moved them to China, where were you when Wall Street was stealing America?”, and you get this sheepish look and this “er, uh, yeah, I know, but we gotta stand up to this labor assault now, or we’ll all lose out” or some such brush off.

    We need a Nation Labor Rights Union that represents all U.S. workers, democratically organized, using internet technology to communicate to and from their base, that responds to U.S trade and economic policy as a single voice. A voice loud enough to shout down the Bankers and Wall Street financiers, politicians, lobbyists, and others that used America, her resources, innovation and a hundred years of industrial and technological advancement from the collective efforts of her entire citizenry, leveraging her institutional wealth, claiming it it as their own and their own only, proceeding to take our collective national wealth and transfer it over seas labor markets to enrich themselves only, while impoverishing millions back in the country that enabled them. At the same time, they chose the most desperate, impoverished nations, with the least democratic rights, to locate and build their new empire, and exploit for even further gain to themselves. The entire episode a history in pure, unadulterated selfishness and greed.

        1. JasonRines

          Starvation isn’t illegal but hungry people sure do desperate things. I have friends now that eat once a day. They won’t go on the dole. Guess where all these people are now going? Yankee misjudges the times, the encapsulation effect. My analysis concludes the scenerio is French Revolution misdirected into World War.

          I have said this repeatedly here and elsewhere for years. What’s this News about Iran covertly attempting to assinate King Faud? Arch Duke and World War part three here we come…

          We are ALL going to pay a steep price from the failure to learn from history and as other commentators have stated, it is the model that creates corruption, specificall the CB model. Milton Friedman himself recognized the flaws in Central Banking and spoke openly of them with his colleagues. 1/3 of us die to evolve this model. Think we’ll all be forgiving afterward?

          1. Nathanael

            You are absolutely correct that a large contingent of dangerous and powerful people are making a lot of effort, which if effective would turn a French or Russian Revolution scenario into a far worse World War III scenario.

            The fake assassination attempt is clearly a ploy to gain sympathy for the Saudi government. I have no idea which other power groups were involved in setting it up, but it’s blatantly nothing to do with Iran, except that the Saudis like to use Iran as their boogeyman (because they’re SHIA, don’t you know).

        2. YankeeFrank

          My point wasn’t that there should not be general strikes, it is that the plutocracy has made it illegal. The commenter I was responding to was berating people for working within the confines of legality. I was criticizing him for using his keyboard to criticize people who get of their asses and try to do something.

          I’m sure all of you armchair critics are at OWS every day right?

          I agree that we need a revived labor movement that is not small-beer bullshit, and that doesn’t proscribe its behaviors to the confines of plutocratic laws. However, if you’re going to criticize people who at least get out on the street, then you’d better be out there yourself.

          1. avgJohn

            Perhaps you are right Yankee, maybe it was a little bit unfair to vent on the teacher’s union reps who called at my door for support, but I was not trying to imply that the entire responsibility for the state of labor relations in this country was their own individual fault. However, it is quite clear they weren’t ringing my door bells to stop G.E. from shipping more jobs off shore, they were their for themselves, and that was my point.

            And in the context of discussing their labor issues, I made it quite clear to them, that I felt that the issue we face is either we will succeed in taking back this country collectively, or they will continue to pick us off one-by-one. All for one and one for all, period. Nor do I excuse myself from sitting idly by, while the entire labor movement fell apart in this country. But there’s nothing do do for that now, but to learn from our mistakes and press forward and promise ourselves we won’t be fooled again.

            And by the way, I am no stranger to strikes. I was once a US Steelworker and pulled my shared of picket duty on many occasions, including brutal mid western winter conditions. And I was no stranger to a little bit of late night sabotage, risking running afoul of the law (property damage only, no thuggery), to advance labor’s cause, in my younger day. But that was “a long time ago in a far away galaxy” as they say, and the referenced company packed up it’s bags and left for distant shores many years ago, leaving behind only regional sales offices.

            I’ve suggested a national union but perhaps better models than the union-management approach will emerge from movements such as the OWC, to deal with the nation’s employment issues. I’d like to see a model where unions weren’t necessary, actually, but that would require some real radical thinking and changes I’m don’t feel society is ready for. But I’m open minded about it, how about you?

            I guess maybe we all let it fall apart Yankee, and it’s going to take all of us, along with some innovative thinking to put it back together again.

    1. Jackrabbit

      We need a Nation Labor Rights Union that represents all U.S. workers . . .

      What we need is a government that represents everyone instead of one that is compromised by money.

      What if voting was an obligation instead of a right? Voting as a right made sense decades ago when it would be hard to track everyone down. Now, with computers, it would be very easy to track whether someone voted. And the Government has a big stick to ensure compliance: ineligibility for benefits, passport, etc.

      1. alex

        Australia does that. Technically you just have to go to the polls, not vote, but that matters little. The penalty is just a modest fine, but that’s enough and virtually everyone shows up. Personally I have mixed feelings about it.

        Getting the money out of elections is another story. Large campaign contributions are bribes. Period. No mincing words. Until we have publicly funded campaigns we’re screwed.

      2. reslez

        If voting were made mandatory it should also be a federal holiday with free transportation to the polls, etc. That or use mail-in ballots. Of course we know that wouldn’t happen — it’s just an excuse to inflict punishment on people who make decisions you disagree with.

      3. different clue

        The Soviet Union made voting an obligation instead of a right. I suppose if massive election boycotts threaten to reveal the illegitimacy of the governing establishment beyond all hope of denial, the government might introduce voting as obligation-not-right in the spirit of the Soviet Union.

        Turning voting into an obligation would reveal a Corporate Soviet Tyranocracy at work.

    2. davver

      Unions are uneasy helping “workers” because ultimately unions like how they have better gigs then most workers even though they don’t have better skills. I learned this from the way my Dad’s union treated “scabs”. After seeing how people treat “scabs” the natural question is what makes you deserve better then how you treat “scabs”.

      1. Ivan Karamazov

        Scabs hamper union organization and strike efforts. They work against better lives for more workers.

        They deserve whatever they get.

    3. Jane Doe

      Agree with the notion that we need organization of the work force as a national union rather than the “every man for himself” approach that is the norm.

      However, as you can see, part of the problem is convincing the children of Reaganism that such approaches are no longer in their interest, and even today, after all that has happened, with mass corruption, they still think they can use transactional negotiation to win the day.

      The problem with transactional negotiation is that it was never meant to handle society wide problems. Its like signing any contract. It only addresses the issues of the parties involved in the contract. Sure, if there are enough of them, it can be come a standard for an industry, but that does not translate across all industries.

      So the whole negotiate just with capital in one industry approach leaves labor as a severe disadvantage when it comes to raising the boat for everyone.

      You could still have individual negotiation, just like you do now for contracts, but those contracts should be placed in an environment where the contracts and relationships for all workers are strengthened.

      For example, changing “at will employment” laws in the U.S. would fundamentally reshape labor law standards if you required cause. This is not necessarily something I am advocating that should be done, but it is an example of how labor markets in the U.S. work on a macrolevel under the laws that exist. Or if one had build relationships across the partisan divide about trade agreements- that again is a chance to reshape the system to the left even with the two parties resisting it from the leadership side of the parties.

  14. Dave Stratman


    By Dave Stratman
    June 13, 2006


    The US working class has been betrayed by organizations that it thought were its own and by contractual arrangements that it thought were to its benefit. The working class is trapped in a web of organizations and ways of thinking about itself which have stripped it of its power and left it fatally vulnerable to its enemies.

    Beneath the ringing words of the 1908 Preamble to the Constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) lay a vision of the working class as an active revolutionary force with a deep historical purpose: to sweep away the brutal rule of capitalism and create society anew:

    “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life….

    “Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,’ we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system.’

    “It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism….”

    –from PREAMBLE to the IWW Constitution

    The IWW understood that, at its heart, class struggle is a struggle over the future of human society. The struggle on the job against individual employers is part of a larger class war. The “Wobblies,” as IWW members were called, succeeded in organizing such difficult to organize groups as timber workers, agricultural workers, and cowboys, and they organized some of the most important strikes in US labor history, such as the Lawrence “Bread and Roses” textile strike of 1912. This strike shows much of the Wobblies’ approach to industrial organizing. When mill owners cut the pay of mill workers to $6 a week, 23,000 workers spontaneously walked out. The AFL craft unions refused to help the unskilled, mostly female and immigrant strikers, but IWW leaders “Big Bill” Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and other Wobblies rushed to their aid. Haywood describes the strike in his autobiography, Bill Haywood’s Book:

    It was a wonderful strike, the most significant strike, the greatest strike that has ever been carried on in this country or any other country. And the most significant part of that strike was that it was a democracy. The strikers had a committee of 56, representing 27 different languages. The boss would have to see all the committee to do any business with them. And immediately behind that committee was a substitute committee of another 56 prepared in the event of the original committee’s being arrested. Every official in touch with affairs at Lawrence had a substitute selected to take his place in the event of being thrown in jail. (Cited at /tinpan/parton/2/breadrose.html#)

    The bitter, ten-week Bread and Roses Strike–”We want Bread, and Roses too”–with its picket lines of thousands of women strikers, became a national and international sensation and resulted in victory. The IWW reached a peak membership of around 100,000 in 1923. Though the IWW remained influential in the ‘30s and ‘40s, a combination of ferocious government repression, internal splits, and other factors led to the Wobblies’ rapid decline after 1924. Other unions with a democratic and “horizontal” style of organizing, however, followed in their wake.

    The close of World War I through the 1930s saw an increasingly revolutionary working class movement in the US. The 1919 General Strike in Seattle began with an illegal strike by 35,000 shipyard workers against their employer–the US government; they were joined by 110 union locals. The General Strike Committee virtually ran the city for two weeks, in what the mayor of Seattle called “an attempted revolution.” In the 1920s and 1930s textile strikes swept New England and the South, and strikes by hundreds of thousands of steel workers and coal miners spread throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico, Washington, and other states. Striking miners in West Virginia formed a “citizen army” of four thousand workers “led by war veterans, accompanied by nurses in uniform, and armed with every weapon they could obtain” to break through deputies’ lines and spread the strike to non-union counties in the famous Battle of Blair Mountain.

    On May 9, 1934 a strike by longshoremen in San Francisco was joined by teamsters and workers in other sectors and developed into a general strike of 130,000 workers which shut down most of the shipping on the West Coast. The Los Angeles Times called the general strike “an insurrection, a …revolt against organized government.” On May 22, 1934 a Teamsters strike in Minneapolis developed into a general strike in which as many as thirty thousand workers, many of them armed, drove the police force and 500 special deputies out of the city. On May 23 a strike in Toledo, OH was put down only by a force of 900 National Guard troops. By September 5, 1934 325,000 textile workers were on strike throughout the South. As “flying squadrons” of 200 to 650 strikers moved into the Carolinas, unbelting machinery and fighting scabs, the governor of South Carolina declared a “state of insurrection” and imposed martial law. The violence spread to the New England textile mills, leading the governor of Rhode Island to declare a “state of insurrection.”(See John Spritzler, The People As Enemy: The Leaders’ Hidden Agenda in WWII, pp. 58-67 for more of this fascinating history.)

    The growing working class movement seemed to threaten the survival of the capitalist system itself. The federal government responded with a plan to tame the working class by legalizing industrial unions and regulating them within a framework which would make workers more controllable. In 1935 Congress passed the Wagner Act, which granted workers collective bargaining rights within a process regulated by the federal government, and created the National Labor Relations Board to enforce “fair labor practices.” There were three provisions of the Wagner Act which, according to labor historian Staughton Lynd, many unionists of the time found particularly threatening: “1) exclusive representational status for the majority union; 2) the dues check-off (in which the company collects dues from employees on behalf of the union); and 3) the closed shop.” Each of these provisions favored the more conservative national unions over more radical, community-based unions. (Staughton Lynd, “We Are All Leaders”: The Alternative Unionism of the Early 1930s, p. 9)

    Also in 1935 John L. Lewis, former president of the United Mine Workers Association, brought a number of AFL union leaders together to form the CIO, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, on the basis of industrial unionism–that is, unions that admit all workers, unskilled as well as skilled. Lewis was a life-long Republican who felt that the working class upheavals of the mid-thirties presented a “dangerous state of affairs” that might lead to “class consciousness” and “revolution.” Lewis pictured industrial unions as a means of controlling insurgent workers to insure labor peace. He assured the Senate committee sponsoring the Wagner Act, “Allow the workers to organize, establish strong governmental machinery for dealing with labor questions, and industrial peace will result.”(Quoted in Lynd, p. 8)

    The CIO unions, writes Lynd, had four fundamental characteristics which contributed to its destructive effects on the working class: “First, national CIO unions were from the beginning, and aspired to be, ‘semi-public institutions, licensed by the state.’…Second, national CIO unions from the beginning practiced top-down decision-making….[with power vested in] full-time officers and staff representatives, paid by the national union….Third, whereas the rank-and-file unionism of the early 1930s emerged from and depended on direct action inside and outside the shop, national CIO unions from the beginning sought to regulate shop-floor activity not approved at higher levels of the union….Finally, from the beginning the national CIO leadership ardently sought to discourage independent labor politics and to tie the CIO to the Democratic Party.” (Lynd, pp. 12-14. Emphasis in original.)

    The CIO unions, along with the conservative AFL craft unions which they were meant to complement, have played the role they were designed to play by the government and Big Business. They have reduced the vibrant, grass-roots working class movement which once shook capitalism to its foundations to a demoralized and demobilized mass, shattered beyond recognition if not beyond repair.

    Instead of a vision of the working class as an active force with a revolutionary mission, the AFL-CIO unions promote a vision of workers as simply a special interest scrounging for a piece of the capitalist pie. The AFL-CIO unions present capitalism as legitimate and permanent, and see their role as to make it function more smoothly in a government-regulated, pro-business process. The capitalist unions function as arms of management. Their role is not to build solidarity but to undermine it, not to mobilize workers but to demobilize them, not to strengthen the working class but to divide workers from each other, strip them of their power, and divert them from their historic revolutionary mission.

    The consolidation of the labor movement into capitalist-dominated unions has meant the collapse of popular understanding of class struggle and the end of an organized working class movement that challenged the values, power, and legitimacy of capitalism. Unionized workers occupy the most central roles in the US economy and government–auto and steel; airlines, trucking, and rail transportation; communications; government services; teaching and nursing; and others. Yet these unionized workers, who hold the levers of economic and social power in their hands, have been so demoralized by their unions and so cut off from other sectors of the working class, union and non-union, that they have been unable to mount any effective defense against the brutal capitalist offensive of the last thirty years on every area of working class life–on wages, on health care, on pensions, on government social programs, on public education, on people’s desire for peace. When union members have attempted to fight back, they have been betrayed by their unions in a series of bitter strikes and lockouts–PATCO, Hormel, Staley, Caterpillar, Detroit News, Accuride, and others. Meanwhile the unions have promoted class-collaborationist programs like “Team-Building” and “Quality Circles” designed to unite workers with their bosses to compete against other workers. At this writing the United Auto Workers (UAW) is in court colluding with GM and Delphi to rob UAW retirees of their pensions.(Interestingly the proportion of French workers in unions is nearly 35% lower than American workers. Yet in the 1990’s and recently French workers have mounted massive resistance to the attacks of capital.)

    The goal of the IWW was to organize the working class to throw off the chains of capitalism. It refused to negotiate contracts or to accept the dues check-off, because it knew that these practices undermine workers’ power and make unions beholden to the company. Many CIO locals continued this practice of “struggles around demands, rather than negotiating contracts.” Lynd writes, “John Sargent, the first president of the 18,000-member local union at Inland Steel, recalled, “Without a contract we secured for ourselves agreements on working conditions and wages that we do not have today [1970]….If their wages were low there was no contract to prohibit them from striking, and they struck for better wages. If their conditions were bad…they would shut down a department or even a group of departments to secure for themselves the things they thought necessary.” (Lynd, pp. 5-6)

    The goal of today’s unions is to negotiate a contract with the employer and to obtain dues and other funding in any way that they can. Accepting the legitimacy and permanence of capitalism, they promote the capitalist view that the welfare of workers depends upon the welfare of the corporations: “What’s good for GM is good for the country.” Worse, the unions promote the capitalist vision in which the role of ordinary people in society is to be wage slaves, the upper class’s “hired help,” grateful for a job serving upper class purposes, never to be the masters of society with the power to shape it with working class values of equality and solidarity.

    Negotiating a contract is the opposite of building a movement. To obtain a contract for specified wages and working conditions for its members, the union guarantees the employer labor peace for the duration of the contract. To succeed in its role as negotiator, the union must prevent its members from resisting the class enemy through strikes, slow-downs, or any other means of exerting working class solidarity against the employing class during the contract period. As long as the contract endures, the union must enforce the demobilization of its members from the class war.

    The unions’ alliance with capitalism as well as the contractual process give the union a stake in undermining the psychological and political health of its members and in undercutting their relationships with each other. Spontaneous solidarity actions undertaken by members on their own initiative are the bane of union officials. Union officials encourage workers to see themselves as weak and to believe that their power comes from union structures and processes, so as to minimize shop-floor solidarity and condition the members to rely on union officials and formal grievance procedures rather than on their own solidarity and initiative to resolve problems. Undermining worker solidarity and persuading workers that they are powerless on their own become key strategic goals of the unions and key effects of the unions on the working class.

    At the same time, the union becomes a mouthpiece and agent for the company, striving for greater “competitiveness.” The union stake in weakening its own members comes not only from its need to control them but also from the company’s need to see that the members accede to pay-cuts, speed-up, assaults on their health care and pensions. Meanwhile the unions assure the workers that whatever sacrifices the company requires of them now to improve its profits, they will someday reap the rewards of this best possible of systems in the best possible of worlds.

    Union structures were designed from the very beginning to deform the relationships of union members to each other and to the rest of the working class. Unions are vertically organized to minimize relationships and solidarity between union members in different locals, maximize the power of national union staff and officials over local unions, and fractionalize the working class.

    Away from the workplace the role of the unions is no less destructive. Unions train workers not to rely on themselves as agents of change with direct action, whether on the job or in society. Instead they steer their members into the arms of the capitalist political parties and encourage workers to rely on politicians and courts. The AFL-CIO has long acted as paid agents of capitalism abroad through its American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD). The “labor movement” has long colluded with capital by supporting wars fought to protect US corporate interests.

    The central myth on which contemporary unions depend is that workers’ power comes not from their friendships and solidarity but from union structures. The most destructive effects of the unions have been on the self-concept of the working class. Workers have been led to think of themselves as helpless, to believe that their strength comes from institutions outside themselves, and to lose sight of their revolutionary mission. This is the central myth, these are the views, that must be contested.

    At the present moment in history, capitalism has once more in the eyes of millions, perhaps billions of people worldwide, become a disaster from which the human race must escape, and many people are actively trying to imagine or find a path to an alternative. The question of revolution is once more on the agenda. It has again become clear that “the working class and the owning class have nothing in common” and that “It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism.”

    The working class can never recover its strength unless it is clear on the real role of the unions. Please share this paper with friends and co-workers. Discuss your own and other workers’ experiences with unions. Talk about ways for workers to get out of the trap we are in.

    There are many people here and around the world who are thinking and talking about these problems. We need to link up. If you would like to join us in this discussion, please contact us at or visit our web site at newdem@aol.com or visit our web site at http://www.newdemocracyworld.org .

  15. Adrian Haiwei

    I had long and deep experience with the labor movement at multiple levels. Fundamentally, in the 21st century, most unions are just shattered institutions run by damaged people – the result of relentless external assaults, and the lack of career progression opportunities for labor leaders once they’ve reached certain roles.

    Meanwhile the right has leveraged the religious sector to vastly expand its organizing capabilities and influence. Its brilliant on one level – the left is too timid to criticize Christian institutions, and the membership of those institutions is constantly brainwashed to suspend rationality and go wherever the lunatic leadership (many plutocrats themselves) takes them in the name of “faith.” People who are convinced they are receiving general, and personal, messages from god that a glorious rapture will soon be upon us are broadly unreachable for useful political engagement. But they are eager to vote, and reliably turn out.

    As part of changing the currently rigged game, progressives need to do to this infrastructure what the right has done to unions – and many of the modes of attack (starting with much more aggressive auditing rules and enforcement) are the same…

    1. F. Beard

      the left is too timid to criticize Christian institutions, and the membership of those institutions is constantly brainwashed to suspend rationality and go wherever the lunatic leadership (many plutocrats themselves) Adrian Haiwei

      The Left is so Biblically ignorant that it is unable to point to the hypocrisy in the Christian Right.

      What ever happened to “Know your enemy”?

  16. F. Beard

    I agree that unions are necessary but let’s not forget why – the bankers’ union which is essentially a government backed/enforced counterfeiting cartel.

    So what is the US to be? A land of competing unions? The bankers’ union against the labor unions?

    That is the wrong way to go. Let’s abolish the bankers’ union and the need for other unions will wither away as business is forced to share wealth and power with the workers.

    1. David Apgar

      “What is the US to be? A land of competing unions?”

      Interesting thought. Perhaps a different kind of competition might have shaped unions more focused on protecting labor in general and more immune from the attacks — wildly successful — of the capital-chewing class.

      Rather than a regime of one union for each sector (even a union for bankers), imagine that there had to be at least two unions competing in each sector. There might still be broad unions like service employees and government workers but in any given sector there would be at least two. In other words, the equivalent of an antitrust requirement (many of you may be too young to remember that the US used to enforce this kind of thing).

      Rather than weakening unions, I can’t help wondering whether this kind of competitive requirement might have strengthened them, made them more responsive to the needs of workers both inside and outside their memberships, and better able to stand up politically to the American right.

      1. reslez

        [I]magine that there had to be at least two unions competing in each sector.

        Sounds like divide and conquer to me.

        You run across a lot of glorification of competition from blog commenters. Contrary to the free marketeers, competition is not the be-all and end-all of human achievement nor is it a magical cure for every problem. Cooperation is humanity’s true strength, it’s what separates us from chimps.

        1. F. Beard

          Sounds like divide and conquer to me. reslez

          Agreed. I notice we don’t have two Federal Reserves but only one.

  17. F. Beard

    And all this emphasis on jobs is pathetic. The counterfeiters (the banks)and their big borrowers (business) have ripped off the population and all the people can do is beg for jobs from the people who ripped them off?

    The population should instead insist on monetary reform and restitution. The entire population should be bailed out. That way borrowers could pay off their debts and savers would be compensated for years of suppressed interest rates.

    And monetary reform would abolish the ability of some, the so-called “credit-worthy”, to steal purchasing power from everyone else.

    1. Linus Huber

      I certainly agree with this Mr. Beard but I just wonder how exactly would be the mechanics to arrive at such objective.

      1. F. Beard

        but I just wonder how exactly would be the mechanics to arrive at such objective. Linus Huber

        1) Put the banks out of the counterfeiting business by forbidding any further “credit creation”. This would be massively deflationary as existing credit was paid off with no new credit to replace it. Genuine loans of existing money could still be made .

        2) Send monthly and equal bailout checks to the entire adult population, INCLUDING SAVERS, equal in total to the amount of credit paid off the previous month. Continue till all credit debt is paid off.

        Since the total money supply (base money + credit) would not change then no serious price inflation should be expected.

        3) Implement genuine monetary reform including separate government and private money supplies per Matthew 22:16-22. The government would simply create, spend, tax and provide free money storage and account transactions for its fiat. The private sector would be free to develop its own money solutions with absolutely no privilege from government such as the Fed and FDIC.

        1. Nathanael

          Coming from an entirely non-Christian and pragmatic way of thinking, I *really* like the way you think on monetary issues, F. Beard.

  18. LAS

    The point of the TRNN interviewee was not to blame unions, but to suggest they attempt a different leadership strategy in the near future.

    The interviewee is right on with the point that political power tends to grow when you can articulate well the needs of the broadest possible group of people.

    When you are trying to change the political climate, picky challenges to one’s audacity need to be brushed away like a fly. They will always be there but are beside the point.

  19. BA_Actuary

    I can second many of the points that the interviewee made as well. Unions seem to be operating in a survival mode, their primary goals being membership preservation and producing soundbite-worthy concessions from employers, the broader goals they may have once had have been sitting on the back burner for a long time.

    Recent example: One of my clients has been negotiating with a national union, who is willing to lock into what’s virtually no pay increases for many years as long as they can keep their healthcare deductibles/copays from increasing. This strategy clearly can be presented as a “victory” for the core of the union membership (40-50yr old professionals), while ultimately hurting younger workers and even non-unionized workers by skewing payroll to this narrow focus. Even worse, they seem to be competing against other unions as in who will walk out with the most soundbite-worthy victory, while slowly eroding their broader social potential and public goodwill.

    1. Nathanael

      You don’t get it. Younger workers are just as focused as older workers on health care costs. Not having to pay any copays and deductibles is worth a HELL of a lot more than wages, for workers of any age.

      The US government had a chance to take health care out of the employer-employee contract — “Medicare for all”, like Canada has, or a VA Hospitals for Everyone program, like the National Health Service in the UK. Save money for everyone involved and get better health results.

      Of course, that would have meant that the private health insurer profiteers would lose their gravy train. So the government (Republicans and most Democrats) refused to do it.

      Thus we are left with the situation where workers are fighting to get health care, which should be considered a human right, in exchange for their labor.

  20. Ishmael

    I have dealt with unions many times.

    Once we had a subsidiary losing money. Wanted to sell it and had a buyer but the unions needed to make concessions. Nope, would not do it. Sale fell through. What did we do, closed the subsidiary and fired all the workers.

    If I ever had a business where I needed blue collar workers I will have structured the business in a manner that the day it was unionized, I would immediately shut the business down.

    My current business model is structured so everyone is a consultant. You want to work on a project you bill seperately and rebate to me part of your fee. I do not want employees. I hate to say it but a large part of this country is unemployable in a productive venture.

    1. Patricia

      “I hate to say it…” Nah, Ishmael, you love to say it and you say it as many ways as you can in one passing comment.

      But I recommend that you simply be direct. “All workers are stupid, except me (and possibly a couple of my friends), so I treat them as stupidly as possible.”

      See? Simpler, shorter, and well, much less work.

    2. Elizabeth

      Maybe your subsidiary was losing money due to usurious borrowing costs, all down the food chain. But of course this must be blamed on “stupid” unions and workers — when even their costs of living have compounding interest costs and housing inflation (because of, go figure, a bubble created by a period of deceptively cheaper interest costs) folded into them. Now count a loss of their wealth from housing DEflation, and gee, what a bunch of greedy idiots, huh? Wanting to actually break even in life. The nerve!

      Why can’t they see beyond their own narrow needs or knowledge?

      Why can’t YOU?

      1. JasonRines

        A brilliant ‘Cause and Effect’ response. When purchasing power has been eroded for decades using the Central Bank model, the employees steal from whoever is closest. Perhaps that is the gas station attendent selling $4 gas, perhaps it is their employer.

        I own a small business in IT. I had employees that tried tried to steal data between 2001 and 2007. The new twist is for the employee to not only steal your data but leverage it against you. Moral hazard begins at the top. So while I recognize that commentators sentiments or using contractors (I also have to use control systems to prevent theft) this is not the way I prefer to run a business.

        The country can’t move on from the flaws in the CB system. There are too many reasons to list in a short commentary. Mankind will keep portions of the model that work, scrap the rest and evolve. We’re nearing the conclusion of a 250 year super cycle.

          1. JasonRines

            Saucer people? What, you think the study of micro and macro cycles should be left to the high priests of banking or something? The one constant is that at one point in time, “This time is different”. And no, I don’t believe in the rapture or ‘special’ god ‘favored’ groups of anything.

          2. craazyman

            No. They live outside of time itself, and they only intrude into it, and it makes no sense to try to locate them in its stream. Just like the demons that make unions necessary. Just like the demons everywhere. And you have to know them first, before you can ever know what sense to make of them, or of youself.

            Forgive me for being turgid. I was down at the Square tonight hoping to have a meal and write my restaurant review of the Liberation Cafe, but I was mortifid at the thought of tomorrow at 6 am and I wanted to be there to bring my vibration into the spiritual defense of the sacred space, and they were cleaning the pavements with brooms and mops and unforunately the Cafe was closed.

            So I hung out for the General Assembly and saw the most remarkable things and heard the most remarkable things. How bright the Spirit is when you see it pouring pure and transcendent through a face and a voice. And how amazing it is to see the faces listening open and alive, the living God there in a a hundred loose and assembled bodies scattered across the kaliedescope of street lights and pavement walls and office windows, tree branches and fog and jackets and hats and shadowed faces and silouttes against the yellow lights of the street.

            This must have been the way it was when Jesus Himself was preaching. Now it’s magnified with the lens of 2000 years and the Old Masters and the Cathedrals and the Saints and the 10 foot paintings in the museums and all the fame of the massive Pilot Wave.

            But back then, at the time, I’m sure it was just words from a pure and calm but certain face and the clumsy and scattered fragments of ground and sky and passersby looking and all the thoughts and inattentions, like a kalidescope of sudden thoughts and sensations, each mind trying to pull it all together into gates of perception and knowing.

            It really was astonishing, how calm, confident and pure it all was and how easily and surely it flowed. I thought of the strained office presentations, the labored and false conversations, the false levity, the grinding stress of empty stupid words whose sole purpose is to procure money.

            And then of this young woman talking to 100 people showing gently how we can communicate the cause to the public at large — on subways, busses, in the street — with the voice (and pardon my sentimentality) and the intentionality as pure as angel wanting nothing but to widen the door for Gnosis to enter into the world and trusting completely in it, completely, and wanting nothing from it. And Not with a forced and cosmetic erudition and not with a sweaty and violent rhetorical intensity that only acts as a chiarascuro to illumnite the shallow depth of itself, but with a natural force of conscious mind alone, omnipotent.

            They had put barricades all up and down the financial district and the police were everywhere, and there is nothing anyone of them will be able to do to arrest or quiet or constrain, in any way, that voice of mind. It’s now loose, it’s forever loose, and outside of time, and it’s brigher than the sun, and when it comes into time there is nothing that can resist it.

            God Bless Occupy Wall Street

            Matthew 10:16-20

            Sorry. It’s hard for me to do this without my red red wine and xanax. Saw the canyons of Wall Street tonight dull and dead with barricades and the rags of the ghosts of money without reason defiled everything with a opacity that made it all nearly beyond the ability to register on vision like a death in the Colliseum. Not like 25 years ago, when it was all human and you could see it all — greed balanced with insight and constrained by democracy — like light coming down through leaves of trees.

        1. JTFaraday

          Well, but if I’m Call Me Ishmael’s contractor, *of course* I am going to “steal” his information and leverage it against him.


      2. Ishmael

        I believe most readers here should go look at Argentian from approximately 1930 on and see what strong unions lead to. Having been involved in Argentian in the late 70’s just a couple of years out of school it was an eye opening experience.

        They had very strong unions there. Yup, and the govt was basically controlled by the unions until the country spiraled into chaos.

        Stop being a bunch of Whinging Poms looking for a Nanny State to take care of you. Not going to happen!

        1. F. Beard

          Stop being a bunch of Whinging Poms looking for a Nanny State to take care of you Ishmael

          To be anti-fascist is not necessarily to be pro-socialist.

          1. F. Beard

            I agree that socialism is not a proper remedy to the fascism (the counterfeiting cartel, the banking system) in our society. We should just abolish the fascism and bailout the entire population. That would allow the need for socialism to “wither away” over time.

    3. Nathanael

      I see why you don’t leave your real name. Be assured, your employees (who you are illegally misclassifying as contractors) will be happy to see you up against the wall when the revolution comes. They know your name.

    4. Nathanael

      I see why you don’t leave your real name. Be assured, your employees (who you appear to be illegally misclassifying as contractors) will be happy to see you up against the wall when the revolution comes. They know your name.

      Unfortunately, your sort of behavior is what invites revolution. When you treat your employees decently — rather than claiming that they’re “contractors” and then demanding a fee for allowing them to do work — they don’t tend to be interested in heads on pikes.

      Oh, I could be wrong. Perhaps you collect a fee for providing an actual useful service, and perhaps you don’t actually direct the work of your contractors. Perhaps they could do the same work independently, without you, but they consider you so valuable that they generally don’t.

      Odds of that? Little to none, given your self-description.

      Watch out. There are scenarios which are very bad for you short of revolution. It’s perfectly legal for contractors to form cartels, now that the anti-trust laws have been eviscerated…. you may find yourself with a union by another name, and one which isn’t bound by any of the NLRB rules.

  21. Hugh

    Unions have been under attack for 35 years. In 2010, unionized workers accounted for 11.9% (20.1% in 1983) of the labor force minus the self-employed, 6.9% of private sector workers, 36.2% of public sector ones. Public sector union members now outnumber those in the private sector: 7.623 million vs. 7.092 million.


    Unions have remained tied to the Democratic party even as that party has become a vehicle of corporate greed and so have participated in their own demise. One of the best examples of this is Andy Stern the former head of the SEIU. Stern was a member of the Bowles-Simpson Cat Food Commission and, like Bowles, Simpson, and Pete Peterson working in the background, favored cutting Social Security and Medicare. The current leadership of the SEIU doesn’t look any better. For real lack of imagination though it is hard to trump Trumka. Like Establishment liberals in general, he occasionally makes a few noises and then promptly caves.

    Seeing some of the comments above, I would take exception to the view that unions did themselves in by making excessive demands. Union wages tended to keep wages up generally, but wages have been flat for the last 35 years so not only were union demands not excessive they failed even to translate into any gains. It is rather corporatist propaganda that depicted unions as overreaching. At the same time this canard became the conventional wisdom, the huge transfers of wealth to the rich which have created the current stunning wealth inequalities were taking place. Forget the labels and the slogans, do the math.

  22. Elizabeth

    You have to ask the corporate big shots if they actually give a flying flip about “America’s decline” because of income inequality. How the heck does supporting “America” contribute to their profits — except perhaps when it’s time to wave the venerable flag over their crappy products? They’re here to loot the place, not save it. And that’s always been their agenda; go ask Teddy Roosevelt about it.

    What strikes me as miraculous is that this country supports such a vibrant consumer and creative culture inspite of all that. Just think what we’d be if there were little or no looting at the top. Cue “God Bless America” and weep for what could have been.

    1. JasonRines

      True, but let’s recognize cyclical nature of our species. Trust busters like Teddy come along after all the cream has been skinned and the peopulation tribe has maggot infested meat to eat for the winter.

      Said in economic terms trust-busting happens when over leverage of the. B model fails to produce growth. The bankers have guaranteed revolution and world war, the variables are now locked like a tumbler in a lock. Half the population is crooked aggressors and the other half defending their right to exist. We’re whistling past the graveyard but the value of learned lessons will be applied shortly. Sadly, a noticeable amount of our species won’t be here to implement it.

      There was a well-known WW2 vet and Author that just died. His name was Joe Garland. Joe spent his entire life fighting Fascism to try and stop the clock from ever reaching 12:01 again but evolution of the forty year cycles of Robber to Producer can only be marginally altered.

      The right against Fascism will continue until mankind has reached clinical immortality. I would say we have the tools now for that but not the collective will. Greed will ensure it takes us 200 more years.

      All this said, may as well do what can be done to mitigate loss and move the ball a couple of yards forward toward that end.

      “You must be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect”.

      Yeah, except nobody told me this process takes a few hundred million years and we still have a few hundred left to go!

  23. rotter

    The Fate of American Unions and by extension American Workers, was sealed long ago when they agreed to be corporations themselves. The strategy of being compliant management freindly liason offices, was not a strategy that was ever meant to strengthen the Unions and their workers.
    What good is a Union that has given up its right to strike?
    The corporations got what they want the way they always get what they want, by playing up to the greed and vanity of the individual.

  24. rotter

    Taking the govt thumb off the scale WRT labor law, allowing workers to organize without having to make it through a minefield laid by management would have broad “social value”. Making it illegal for management to hire “consultant” groups to avoid obeying the law would be good for everyone.Anything we could do for the Working class would have “prodcutive social” outcomes. Its not the working class whos interests are advanced by perpetual global war on terror, or environmental destruction.The interests of the Working class are perfectly aligned with progressive social change.

  25. ECON

    Having read most of the comments I would have been better informed if there was a comment on the German union movement and structure. It appears that there are many differences in the German union that would benefit the worker. For instance there is a union representative on the board of directors.

    1. Ishmael

      If I am not mistaken, Europe appears that it is on the edge of total collapse. The only thing which has kept Europe going is a steady increase in the size of leverage at its banks and governments which have kept the economies humming along. I do not know why anyone structuring their unions in a similar manner as Europe thinks this is an answer. When the sovereign debt of these countries collapse as well as their banks what do you think their economy is going to look like.

      The states that look the most similar to Europe are California, Illinois and Michigan. People who are wishing for utopia should look how it turned out in these states.

      No one forces any one to work at a job or career in this country. No one forces you to take on debt. If you do not like it quit and do something else.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        When were you last in Europe?

        Infrastructure is vastly better than here, in most countries (Spain, France, Italy. Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark), people are better dressed, have more vacations, and score better on just about every social indicator than the US.

        1. Ishmael

          Yves — you are still living in the Matrix. All of the above paid for with debt! Of course we could have more infrastructure and better dressed people if we give them some more debt.

          In fact I spent a couple of years living in Europe, doing the work that all of the Europeans did not want to do!

          1. F. Beard

            All of the above paid for with debt! Ishmael

            Bankers have the amazing ability (through government privilege) to lend us our own stolen purchasing power. So very little domestic debt is morally valid. As for money owed to foreigners in one’s own currency, that is easily paid off by simply moving money from an interest-paying account at the central bank to a non-interest-paying account at the central bank.

      2. run75441


        If the EU is on the verge of collapse, it is more the fault of TBTF which again would include the saint of them all Goldman Sachs

        1. rotter

          The Hutzpah of the freemarketeers never fails to astonish me. If “Europe is on the verge of collapse” its happened because (and since) they fully and utterly emnbraced american lazze faire chicago school economic policy.Europe is “on the verge of failure” because they (at least those in power) have decided to live like ugly americans, not becasue of their Unions.

      3. SidFinster

        The problem with the “excessive social spending is bringing down the Euro” meme, it that is just not borne out by the facts. At best, they go all over the place.

        Finland, which is probably the most “socialist” member of the Eurozone, has the lowest public debt of any Eurozone country. Private debt is also low. (Interestingly, political corruption is almost unheard of in Finland, which is also not supposed to happen according to Hayek.) The Scandinavians also show us the right way to clean up failed financial institutions.

        Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are also in decent shape, and all feature social safety nets that rival anything Nancy Pelosi or Bernie Sanders could come up with in their wildest dreams and given unlimited dope. The biggest problems in their countries are their financial sectors, which, faced with wretched margins in their home markets, started chasing after yield and investing in things they did not quite understand (like US subprime debt and Greek bonds).

        Denmark has a debt problem, but it is private sector debt and not public debt.

        Ireland, by contrast, was the poster child for market-based principles, except that its politicians and bankers are a bit too close. To be fair, its public debt would be low (and its financial system bankrupt), except for the fact that Irish politicians and bankers are a bit too chummy for the public good.

        Greece was a mixed bag. Greek private sector debt is low, compared to the US or many EU countries. On the one hand, regardless whether the Socialists or New Democracy were in power, Greece has a huge and well-paid public sector. On the other hand, regardless of who was in power, benefits for the average frustrated Greek non-government employee have been low. The real problem separating Greece from, say, Austria, has been a chronic lack of competitiveness and endemic corruption.

        Portugual could be described as “Greece-Lite” except that the average frustrated Portuguese dude gets more out of the government than does his Greek equivalent.

        Italy produces things people want and its private sector debt is low, but has an increasingly distracted and dysfunctional political culture. Belgium has all of the dysfunction, and Dexia too, even if it lacks anyone who can match the suave sexual magnetism of Berlusconi.

        Spain is somewhere in the middle of the EU “socialist” scale, but is coming off a raging property bubble. Interestingly, the international Spanish banks seem to be surviving, while the local and regional banks are still sick.

        France has a very competent civil service, but one that is also a bit too close to the French business and financial sectors. Hence, the French state is in a position where it is trying to save everyone and everything, and it cannot do all at once. Pretending that there is no problem and declining competitiveness versus Germany do not help.

  26. Luke Lea

    We need a labor party — a dues-paying, national political party representing the people who make their livings with their hands and their feet. Industrial and trade unions, to say nothing of public-employee unions, are inimical to the interests of working people as a class and should be condemned. Wage subsidies financed by a graduated expenditure tax should be the policy goal. Compensation for the damage done to hourly wage workers by the elite trade and immigration policies coming out of Washington the justification. We also need to rewrite our wage and hour laws to reflect the technological progress of the past fifty years. The six hour day for two-earner families is not an unreasonable demand. Organize.

  27. Lady in Red

    Wow! How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Once upon a time, unions were quite necessary. Not now. Their workers are stupid, lazy. Have you seen the videos of the drunks at “early lunch break” at GM factories in Michigan guzzling booze in the park? Or the SEIU thugs beating up the tea party folk? Or, tried to get a show exhibit into an exhibit hall alone, on your own, without paying the “union tax?” …and finding it trashed in the morning? …watching them play cards all day….

    Have none of you ever seen that?

    The problems are quite simple: get rid of the parasites who are eating the host, the productive workers. Parasites? The banksters, most of govt workers, lobbiests, a good chunk of the lawyers and a good chunk of politicians.

    Then, default on the “debts” to the banksters, worldwide. Buld a new system of exchange on the gold standard and a new order.

    This one is too broken to be fixed.

    I am a worker-friendly small biz owner. I’ll help, however we do it. But govt, in collusion with the banksters and the others who suck money out of the producing population are the problem.

    They are not going to let go. There is no where for them to be, but a host parasite.

    The system, globally, is imploding. The debt is not my problem. To pay off the US debt alone, the rest of the entire world’s population is going to have to pay 19 per cent of their GDP buying US Treasuries. It ain’t gonna happen. ….Lady in Red

    1. run75441

      Really Lady in Red?

      Drunken UAW workers at the plants? as opposed to the three martini office crowd? I too think we should eliminate the parasites and start with the Dephi – types such as Miller and those of similar ilk.

      Truly, talk to me of Labor.

      One middle management type.

      1. Lady in Red

        Well, for all I know Mr. Middle Mgmt, you are no better.

        Try this:


        and tell me you’d like to stand shoulder with these “workers.”

        I grew up in the beautiful city of Flint Michigan with the wonderful liberal benefactor, CS Mott. You want to take a class and can find any other five to join you? Mott Foundation would fund it. On and on, from the library to the theatre. It was quite rich in culture and the generosity of Mott’s funding.

        Even then, there was an ugly evil undercurrent of more more more as the plant workers drove their ever bigger boats and campers “up north” on Friday evening. Like lemmings. And Sunday night they would come back. The entire “shop rat” mentality of the city was focused solely on money and laziness. The more they got, the more they wanted.

        Today? It is quite frightening to visit my mother, who gets knocked about at food markets by people “in a hurry.” It would be hard to spend an hour driving the city and not get “the finger” three times from “busy people.”

        So. You may continue to posture and postulate.

        The unions did not break the system. The banksters and the govt did that. But it’s broken and, like I wrote, they won’t let go. Kick the can. Bide your time. Talk about the “options.”

        I fear it won’t be pretty when The Productive Workers of the world finally decide to take things back and off the parasites. Unions will have nothing to do with it, then.
        ….Lady in Red

    2. aet

      Explain again precisely why the money supply ought to be limited to the supply of gold? Why not tungsten instead of gold? Or zinc? Or uranium? Or coal? Or tobacco?

      Because gold can’t be easily faked? Or is exceptionally difficult to find, mine and process?

      Why a gold standard at all?

      Due to the simple force of habit, perhaps?

      Or myth? Tradition?

      The gold standard seems rather obscurantist to me.

      1. Lady in Red

        Good questions. I suspect force of habit and tradition.

        I do not necessarily advocate gold, per se.

        Seemed logical.

        I just know that “what is” is very very close to total global collapse and nobody I’ve read has a plan for what to do when the riots begin.

        My “starter” plan is global default and stiff the banksters. From there….? ….Lady in Red

    3. rotter

      Once upon a time, unions were quite necessary. Not now. Their workers are stupid, lazy. Have you seen the videos of “the drunks at “early lunch break” at GM factories in Michigan guzzling booze in the park? Or the SEIU thugs beating up the tea party folk? Or, tried to get a show exhibit into an exhibit hall alone, on your own, without paying the “union tax?” …and finding it trashed in the morning? …watching them play cards all day….

      Have none of you ever seen that?”

      LOL!! No, but i stay away from freerepublic, Stormfront and glen becks website.
      Lady in red your whats wrong with the “dialogue” in this country and always has been. 100 years ago people just like you were saying the same things about Catholics or the Irish. You never change.

      1. Lady in Red

        You make me smile, Rotter.

        Your concept of dialogue is interesting. And, I suppose that if one does not succumb to your views, kneecapping will be in order?

        You should, really, look beyond your preconceived views of the world as you would make it when all have been beaten to acceptance of your world order.

        As I said, ridicule is an interesting idea of “dialogue.” ….Lady in Red

    4. Ivan Karamazov

      Tea party folk getting beaten up? Can I find this brilliant comedy on video?

      Get it in iMovie, back it up with “Ode to Joy” – can’t wait.

  28. TC

    I don’t think today’s income inequality is all that difficult to remedy. Great projects (far more capital-intensive than road and bridge repair requires), organized through Congress and financed via a Hamiltonian national bank would serve to most rapidly repair today’s income disparity.

    All that’s needed is political will. Whether people taking to the streets finally distinguishes statesmen from jellyfish remains to be seen. Right now, the political race appears a dash for who can act the most fascist. A flat tax? Sieg Hiel.

    Mr. Gindin’s principle of thinking toward economy is brilliant. Classical American principle spoken through concrete ideas applicable today. I would argue with the notion of needing to weaken those controlling capital, however. Regulate and discipline in a two-tier credit system with a Hamiltonian national bank at the top tier seems more realistic. Likewise, commercial opportunities waiting to explode in proportion to congressionally-directed upgrades in the economy’s physical platform offer an indisputable face-saving way out for today’s fee junkies.

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