Workers Reject Unionization Again, and Democrats Refuse to Learn

No one in recent years has done as much to wreck the union movement in America as American workers. Yet another effort to unionize auto workers failed this week, as Volkswagen employees in Tennessee declined to join the UAW. This is the UAW’s second failure at the Volkswagen plant. It follows a series of high-profile unionization defeats, including rejection at a Nissan plant in Mississippi in 2017, at Target, Starbucks and Home Depot stores, Boeing and among FedEx employees in New Jersey.

FedEx drivers in North Carolina voted in 2017 to decertify their union. The last unionized group of FedEx drivers are 50 employees based in Stockton, CA. Last year farm workers in California rejected a unionization bid by a 5-1 margin. Hospital workers in Los Angeles voted to decertify their union this past February.

Ask a Democrat what America needs and broader union membership will probably rank in their top five. Ask an actual worker what they need, and you’ll get a very different list. Members of traditional labor unions, the ones that represent the actual working class, voted for Trump by staggering margins. Democrats do not represent working class Americans. Neither do unions. That has to change.

Old-line unions like the Teamsters and the UAW are in free-fall, with participation collapsing and the mental distance between their leadership and their dwindling membership widening to a chasm. A similar dynamic has played out in all of the most successful democracies. Trades-union membership in Germany has fallen by more than a third in just over a decade. The same dynamic is playing out in Japan, Germany and even France.

Amid this decline in unionization, who is forming new unions? Recent examples include grad students and journalists. Today, the largest block of union members in the US are educated, white-collar government employees. Union members today are not working-class, unless you include college-educated professionals in the proletariat.

Do workers still need unions? Depends on what you mean by a union. US workers, in the traditional sense of the word – meaning hourly wage-earners performing manual tasks, have suffered tremendously from eroding bargaining power. Unions as presently organized haven’t helped, and have often hastened the decline of workers’ power. Workers badly need the organizing power of institutions that bind them together, aggregating their power. Doctors, lawyers and accountants benefit from these kinds of organizations. Welders would as well.

One reason white collar professionals are now more likely than their blue collar cousins to form a union is that white collar workers are less vulnerable to exploitative, authoritarian paternalism. Lawyers have a very different relationship to their bar association than pipefitters have to their union. When Teamsters last year voted down a new contract negotiated by their leaders with UPS, the union simply overruled them.

American labor unions are particularly paternalistic and authoritarian, thanks to their unique history. American labor unions, as we know them today, were shaped and fostered by the federal government to win World War II and the Korean War. They have changed far too little to remain useful, instead acting as a persistent obstacle to necessary adaptation. Working people get better outcomes for themselves and their communities when they form organizations that let them collaborate. Modern American labor unions are obstacles to this kind of organization as potent and corrosive as any Koch brothers astro-turfing campaign.

Before 1935, unions had gained only a very tenuous foothold in the US. In much of the country they were treated as an illegal obstacle to commerce and there was no national protection of union rights.

Unions became a convenient tool of the mafia because of their authoritarian structure, the poverty and vulnerability of their members, and a partnership with Democratic electoral machines. In the model that developed absent official, legal union protections, criminal gangs provided the heft to maintain discipline in the ranks. Those ranks provided voters and volunteers for Democratic political organizations. And those Democratic political organizations delivered cover for the leaders of local mafias. It’s impossible to understand why today’s Chicago figures like Ed Burke or Jim Madigan enjoy such untouchable power without exploring this embedded organizational structure.

In the period between passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and Truman’s failed effort to nationalize the steel industry, unions gained legitimacy at a price. US leaders took an exploitative, adversarial labor system and hardened it into concrete. The old worker-mafia-politician triad became impossible to dislodge, and American businesses lost the potential power of real employee representation.

This machine produced an environment in many northern states in which no one could hope to get a blue collar job without demonstrating loyalty to the unions, the Democratic Party, and their local Mafiosi. In many northern states it was illegal to work in most major industries without a union card. Get sideways with your local mob boss, and he didn’t necessarily need to beat you up or kill you. By getting you kicked out of your union, he could leave you penniless. In their successful campaign to win the right to unionize, American workers simply traded one authoritarian boss for another. That trade was an improvement, but not by much.

This labor arrangement was only sustainable so long as the US was alone in the world, the only major nation to escape the destruction of WW2. Once the slightest hint of competition began to emerge, this Democratic labor union house of cards quickly tumbled. US iron and auto industries collapsed in the 1970’s as nascent European and Japanese competition emerged. We forget now that NAFTA was a desperate effort to maintain some relevance for major US industrial operations, a short lifeline that extended US industrial profits for a few more decades.

The first Jimmy Hoffa commanded the Teamsters Union from prison for several years. After he was released, the union rewarded his silence with a cash pension that made him a millionaire. Despite a court order barring him from further union activity, in 1975 he’d begun to rebuild his power, threating the new leadership. His disappearance became a national legend. The Teamsters Union is still, today, led by a Hoffa.

There is an alternative model of worker organization that is more flexible, productive, and democratic than unions. Works Councils in the German and Japanese model are elected by employees, paid by the company, and have an organizational structure with representation on the corporate board. In this model, the labor organization is part of the company, rather than a separate entity with adversarial interests. This highly democratic and relatively flexible structure is illegal in the US, because it would threaten the power of our traditional unions.

German and Japanese labor organizations are a fundamental element of the company. Management relies on them for feedback, especially in the Japanese Kaizen productivity model. Volkswagen tried to bring workers councils to their US plants, but the Obama Administration and the UAW blocked them. They insisted that no workers organization could be formed at the plant outside the authority of the UAW. This alternative to American labor unions would have enhanced the power of workers at the expense of a sclerotic, corrupt bureaucracy, so worker-friendly Democrats destroyed it.

Thanks to a highly individualistic culture, a Calvinist religious heritage, and a reluctance to teach evolution to schoolchildren, Americans do not understand systems. Good and bad outcomes in politics are always seen as the result of personal traits – a fallacy that haunts our halls.

Americans resist changing systems because systems are invisible to them. If there’s a problem with Medicare, it can be fixed by appointing better people to manage it. If there’s a problem with the US military, it just needs better generals or a better Defense Secretary. And of course, nowhere is this blindness to systems more corrosive and powerful than in race relations.

In the real world, healthy systems produce healthy outcomes. You don’t need heroes in a healthy system. However, no system remains healthy for all times, in all circumstances. Build a healthy, accountable organization fit for the needs of a particular moment and it will work for a time. As the clock ticks and the world changes, it’s power will need to evolve. If it grows too sclerotic to change, it will need to be removed. Politics is a garden that must be tended. Once in a while, it benefits from a fire.

We’ve become so used to the notion that working people don’t understand their interests that it’s developed into a dangerous trope. Yes, working class whites trust Donald Trump more than the Democratic Party because he congratulates their racism. They also love him because he derides their affluent, educated cousins who ignore and despise them. Workers are telling the Democratic Party that they don’t want to become food for yet another disinterested bureaucracy. Democrats respond to this message by harping on their racism, falling back on the old missionary ethic that these benighted fools dwell in darkness and must be saved against their own objections.

One Democratic Presidential candidate seems to get it. Elizabeth Warren is proposing legislation that insure worker representation on corporate boards and increase employee ownership of their own companies. This approach to capitalism is a threat to our present union establishment, making them largely irrelevant. If her effort succeeds, she could improve the lives of tens of millions of lower income workers at the expense of traditional union bureaucrats. She’ll see her most dangerous opposition from her closest allies in the Democratic Party.

Labor unions, like political parties, are tools. Using the wrong tool makes jobs slower, and reduces odds of success. Workers are rejecting labor unions in their present form because they are the wrong tool. Instead of simply shouting at them louder, we should perhaps listen.

47 Comments

  1. New person. I am happily a Democrat, love AOC, and love Elizabeth Warren. I wasn’t even a Democrat during the Reagan days.

    Nevertheless, I look for contrarian, or what I think will be contrarian stuff, just to stay sharp and know what’s out there. Came here from an old GOPLifer post and….wow.

    The articles are deep and thoughtful, and so are the comments. As a regular visitor and commenter at Breitbart this is like the anti-Breitbart.

    The commenters are in fact the most intelligent and deep I’ve seen at any blog.

    Great place.

    And I found nothing wrong with this analysis of modern American union history. I will share it with my neighbor who is a member of a union at UPS, and describes some of the same pro-Chump behavior talked about here.

  2. Unionization of scientists? USDA Director Sonny Perdue has ordered its entire scientific division to pull out of their long term location in Washington DC and relocate to Kansas City as an “efficiency move” that he projects will save money and serve Ag interests better.

    Scientists disagree and are fighting the move as unnecessary, inefficient, costly, disruptive, poorly planned and significantly, IA means to reduce scientific study of agriculture and the impact of climate change. They believe this massive change will stifle scientists and control scientific reports to conform with the trump narrative. Thus the USDA scientists have unionized to try to save their scientific division and careers. Sound familiar? What’s old is new?

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/06/13/usda-research-agencies-will-move-kansas-city-region-perdue-announces/

  3. So, let’s pretend that the feds and state had to start trucking drinking water to support all of Philadelphia. That is roughly the 6th largest city in the U.S. What would be the response of the typical U.S. citizen then to discussions about the reality of Global Warming? I use Philly as an example because Chennai is also the 6th largest city/metro in India. Of course, it has about triple the population of Philly, but that is just quibbling.

    Global Warming is THE existential threat to humanity, but so many just don’t believe it, or care. The tyrant’s cadre (Bolton, Fox anchors et al) pushing the U.S. into a war with Iran is trivial compared to what is happening across the planet.

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/20/india/chennai-water-crisis-intl-hnk/index.html

  4. So Chris, in your ongoing series about events / technology/ demographics changing our economic world at lightning pace, can you do a piece on Facebook’s announcement yesterday to become a world bank creating a new global currency? Given they are in bed with some major financial heavyweights, this one needs to be taken seriously.

    I am terrified what happens when Amazon, Apple, Google, and Micosoft join forces with Facebook et al in this endeavor.

    1. EJ

      I posted this one on the last links page.

      The launch of the Zuckerbuck looks fascinating from a legal point of view. It has not been cleared with regulators, it runs on a technology which is proven not to be fit for purpose, and most countries have laws against paying your workers in company scrip.

      Certainly, given the legal problems Facebook already has, this is a bold move.

      1. Seems like major legal headwinds…but if various financial heavyweights have joined this venture, like Visa, Mastercard, PayPal….those companies have hosts of lawyers that vet these kinds of things. Why would they join if they did not think it is possible.

      2. Hmm, if I were a FB employee, I might not be so thrilled. Now, give me shares of FB stock and that’s better. At least it’s convertible and listed on the NYSE. Our world is upside down in so many ways…Bitcoin hasn’t done so well, wonder why Z believes he can succeed where they didn’t, and, why go there anyway?

  5. Hey look, Chris, The Economist has picked up on the thesis you’ve been writing about Southern Baptists’ marriage to the Republican party:

    https://www.economist.com/united-states/2019/06/15/the-southern-baptists-are-beset-by-two-related-fiascos

    We could even appropriate that word “complementarianism” to describe what the Southern Baptists want the US government to be, the way they want their wives to be.

    Crocodile tears for Mr. Greear, by the way, trying so hard to navigate that awkward world between people no longer wanting in on that shit, and the shit that he peddles.

  6. Teacher unions had almost been eradicated but as republicans have squeezed public school districts more by reducing state and federal support, conditions have forced teachers to hit the streets to protest deep inequity of funding basic educational needs.
    The rise of charter schools (which concept I do not categorically oppose), has brought private education more deeply into the public education system. We can debate all day about the inadequacy and failure of many public school districts, but the need and value of public education in America is not being helped by siphoning off scarce resources and re-segregating our schools.

    Like any union, those working in the public sector are fighting for survival and fairness not only for the children they teach but for the employees who serve in districts with many challenges, the least of which is academic development. As one who spent many years working to advocate for public education, I am saddened to see America turning its back on our children and teachers. The unions I worked with were responsible and partners in our school district. Yet, teacher unions have been labeled as negatively as those in industry by association. I will state one more time: When management does its job well to care for the people who are in the trenches, unions disappear. That is not the hallmark of our capitalistic system.

    https://www.propublica.org/article/how-teach-for-america-evolved-into-an-arm-of-the-charter-school-movement

    1. EJ

      Mary: Could you refer me to some resources on the charter schools issue please? Many of my American friends have widely differing and strongly-held issues on the matter and I feel shamefully uneducated about it. Most of them are also firmly anti-charter school, so hearing something from your position would be very interesting.

      1. I teach in a charter school in Massachusetts. In our state, charter schools are overseen directly by the state as opposed to the local district. That oversight is taken seriously and occurs on a regular basis. Charter schools are public schools in Massachusetts and have to meet the same criteria in state-wide testing and graduation requirements that district schools do.

        We are funded by tuition payments made by the sending district, which is why charter schools are unpopular among district schools admins and teachers. On the other hand, in recent years many of our sending districts have figured out that they can counsel many of their more challenged students—kids with serious mental health issues, chronic absenteeism, etc. to go to our school as we are smaller, have a more personal approach and so on. We have also become very popular among parents of special needs students due to the above. I teach far fewer students than my district school counterpart but I have a much higher level of high needs kids among my students. I knew this going in to the job, so I’m fine with it. It is exhausting however.

        We are not unionized, and are paid less than teachers in district schools. However, the administration above us is only one layer deep and is responsive to our needs. Our turnover is small, because people enjoy working here. This situation can exist because we are a very small school. It would not be transferable to much larger district schools who have to negotiate with school boards. That’s another benefit for us—not having to deal with nutjobs who get elected to local school boards.

        In our state, towns and cities are largely segregated—white people live in the suburbs (and a few urban enclaves) and people of color live in the cities and more urban areas. Our schools are highly segregated not by design but because of where people live. Because our school draws from both urban and suburban districts, we have a highly diverse student body. Not really a reason that families choose to send their children here, but highly appreciated once they’re here.

        One big downside is that we just can’t offer all the electives, clubs, sports teams, etc that a larger district can, especially a wealthy suburban district. We just aren’t big enough. There are students who are resentful of this and complain about it. My daughter attended our (excellent) local public school and thrived in the amazing music and drama program there. We could never duplicate that at our school.

        Should charter schools exist? I would vote yes because we do provide a safe harbor for kids who are not thriving in their home districts and offer a unique experience. However, it only works if charters are held to the same standards and expectations as district schools.

      2. Mass, good to see you coming up for air! Must be summer (-:

        I intend to share some quality links for EJ but want to respond to your personal experience teaching in a charter school. I hope you will also offer sources given your positive experience in Mass.

        To begin: state regulation of charter schools is all over the map. This creates problems for accountability and fairness. The rise of the charter school movement was fundamentally an alternative solution to the preferred voucher concept. It’s “ voucher by stealth”. Charter schools have a place in public education as long as the true purpose is to serve special needs and circumstances of children. When the purpose is to disrupt public education by seining off public dollars for essentially a private education, that’s wrong. That is certainly not always the case, and where charters are established without students having to meet the same minimum requirements as public schools. Further, spotty (if at all) academic supervision and compliance with state DOE requirements (in addition to financial reporting) is too often the case. This is not only unfair to the children being served but an unwise utilization of scarce local education tax dollars. Public school districts and local taxpayers are already footing the bill for one system and any money removed from their coffers, however honorable, means they have to do more with less while meeting requirements that many states do not impose on charters.

        I am a fan more so of magnet programs that revitalize existing schools and allow new learning opportunities. It does make sense/cents, in some situations to replace traditional schools with charters “if” the children will be better served. ( Most caring teachers would love more curricular and supervisisory freedom and the smaller class sizes charters frequently enjoy. They would also live to be able to “pick” their students as very few charters have to take all applicants as do public schools. They would also love to be able to easily remove students who are fail to meet behavior and academic requirements. As I know you are aware, this is much more difficult in the public school environment. Yet, shouldn’t all schools have these options? Maybe, but when public education or the streets (and nothing good happens there for kids), is the last man standing, they are all that is left to save many children. IOW, invest in adequately funded, properly supervised and staffed public education and offer charters as “fillers” when desirable and necessary.

        As for the extracurricular access issue, in some states, students in charter schools are allowed to participate in their assigned public school programs, which has merit. The fairness issue is that these host public schools have already had to forfeit the student dollars to the charter and resent having to provide services to these students who have chosen not to attend their public school. It’s complicated. In LA, school bus transportation is required for all public and private students (including charters) which can make access to campuses far from a student’s home very expensive, which gets back to the whole fairness issue. Magnet programs, or, unique public programs within public schools, do not always provide transportation! As I said, when you create a patchwork in education, logistics and resources are strained.

        BTW, I am a former public school board “nut job. Four years worth, before which, I spent over a decade in public education advocacy (-: (Some might say I haven’t changed…).
        Like you, I worked my buns off and experienced both successes and disappointments. Before exiting these long commentary, I want to thank you for your service to the education of children. In my opinion, teaching is one of the most valuable contributions and jobs in a democracy.

      3. EJ

        Thanks very much MassDem. That’s very interesting.

        At home, school “electives” such as sports clubs, orchestras, art programmes and so on are mostly run municipally rather than by the school. Most German schools end the day around 1pm – 2pm and encourage the students to spend the afternoon doing other activities, often with students from other schools in the area. This helps avoid the “small school” effect that you identify.

        Economic segregation by neighbourhood is an issue that we face too. It’s a difficult issue because it seems to bleed into so many other social issues. When rich people no longer live on the same street as poor people, they aren’t willing to be taxed to fix the potholes on that street, metaphorically speaking.

      4. Education Week is a respected public education journal. Let’s start there with this article that looks at “what charter schools are”.

        Note the fact that there is little continuity in how these programs are regulated and evaluated from state to state. It also skews fair comparison within the states between public and charter schools as there are so many variables regarding critieria.

        https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/charter-schools/index.html

        https://mathematica-mpr.com/our-publications-and-findings/projects/charter-schools-are-they-effective

        (several studies..*.One personal observation – greatest effectiveness is typically found with low income minority students in urban areas. (See: https://thejournal.com/articles/2018/04/10/research-students-who-benefit-most-from-charter-schools-are-least-likely-to-apply.aspx
        Mathematica performs several studies on outcomes related to college entry. I don’t think that’s a good test of the effectiveness of charter schools for all its students. First, parents who seek them as an alternative to public education are already motivated to improve their children’s educations (and stay involved); and, two, for many of these underprivileged students, college is not possible for financial reasons. There are academic scholarship opportunities which help bridge that gap for students who also score very well on college entry tests.) It would be interesting to see a study on employment success for charter school graduates.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/29/AR2009112902356.html

        https://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/CRPE_Are-charter-schools-working_brief.pdf

        https://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/articles/2017-06-30/3-hidden-findings-from-credos-charter-school-performance-study

        Hope this is enough to get you started. Hope MassDem can offer some additional links for your reading. I admit to a strong public school bias. Not because I think they are always better, but because I believe so strongly in the value of education that is not tied to income, class, etc. to a free and strong democracy. Public education has a lot of competition – private sectarian schools, religious private schools, charter programs, state legislation that strips funding from public ed for private ed. It’s, complicated. In the US, a quality private school only needs to be better than the best of its competing district public schools. That’s not always a high bar.

        I’m still interested in public education after being away from the thick of it for 25 years. It matters.

    2. Interesting though, that most of the teacher walkouts last year were organized outside of unions. The NEA and AFT were ultimately supportive but seemed to be rushing to catch up from behind. I’m a member of the VEA here in Virginia; we have talked about similar walkouts here, and the union has been more of a leader there. But the critical mass of support for that hasn’t been reached yet. I think organizing energy has been siphoned off to this year’s state legislative elections.

      1. Several of the states in which teachers walked out are right to work states. The teachers walked out anyway. It was as much about principle as it was anything else. Teachers care about their kids and their jobs but kids come first and their kids had been shortchanged too long. There is always a tipping point and those teachers who walked out were willing to risk their livelihood for the children under their care. You can’t have any more noble purpose than this to strike.

      2. Quite true on right to work (for less) states; mine is one too. To top that off Virginia is one of only three states where public employees can’t collectively bargain. There hasn’t been a lot of noise about changing either circumstance, but check back after our elections in November, when Democrats are significantly favored to take over both chambers of the General Assembly.

  7. So Chris, you seem to thrive on doing historical analysis and comparing that to modern day.

    Run a little thought game for me, and tell me where the average worker in the U.S. would be if there had been no unions decades ago, and continued to be no unions today.

    Would they be on par with workers in Bangladesh? Or workers at a Foxconn plant in China? Or would they all have a Tesla in their driveway?

    1. Thankfully, there were no victims to the latest of America’s never-ending mass shootings. This federal site has had other attacks and law enforcement rapidly deployed, likely saving many lives given the arsenal the assassin was wearing and the bomb in his car that was safely detonated.

      These days, being a foreign correspondent and a judge are hazardous duty. It is interesting to note that a large majority of both republican and democrats and independents solidly support increased gun safety laws. Yet, McConnell refuses to bring these bills to the floor of the senate for debate and vote.

      1. EJ

        I’m glad nobody was hurt (except for the attacker, of course, but the nature of suicide attacks is that they are often not healthy for the attacker.)

        Do you feel that this is a matter of gun control? I don’t mean the question as a rhetorical put-down, you’re a smart person and I’m interested in your analysis.

        According to a quick google, the nation with the highest percentage of citizens owning at least one firearm is either Switzerland or Bosnia-Herzegovina, and yet neither of those nations experience American-style suicide firearms attacks. I would argue that this is a political issue rather than an availability-of-weapons one.

        (America leads the world in firearms ownership, yes, but most of those firearms are owned by a very small proportion of the population. “Guns per capita” is therefore probably a less useful metric here.)

    2. Let me start by stating that I am not “anti-gun”; rather, I am for “regulated gun rights”. Even that approach is a bridge too far for most gun rights activists. I’ll share some articles that I think will help you understand the debate in America a little better. I will state my bias against assault weapons and multi-round ammunition clips: These have no place for personal use and their links to mass shootings are large. I am going to make all the guys here mad at me, but, other than the fun/skill of target hunting, I think having multiple guns is a sign of masculine insecurity. If one lives in a dangerous area, or in a remote area, possessing different types of firearms is more logical than it is when one lives in most middle class neighborhoods. I am also not a proponent of hunting animals for sport, so know that.

      To begin: Basic gun safety regulations are needed. One of the leading advocacy groups is: Everytown for Gun Safety. Their website offers a wealth of information.
      https://everytown.org/

      This article explains the whole gun issue better than I ever could, including your observation about the number of guns vs gun violence dichotomy.

      https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/06/opinion/how-to-reduce-shootings.html?

      And the very spotty records which is not by accident and does impede tracking gun ownership.

      https://www.nbcnews.com/now/video/tracing-the-gun-the-archaic-way-the-u-s-tracks-gun-ownership-61190213671?

  8. What I can’t stand about blue collar worker’s voting pattern is that they think the following: Pro-Business = Pro-Worker. I’ve never understood where that idea came from nor do I understand how that idea keeps persisting even after 40 years of evidence to the contrary. I live in a state where the union workers voted for Republican governors and legislators time after time. They would then be shocked when their benefits and pay would get cut year after year, but they would never tie it to the Right To Work laws being passed by the governor and legislators they put in. Just because something is good for business doesn’t mean it is good for the workers. Just because the stock market goes up, doesn’t mean more workers will get hired. Just because business get a tax cut, doesn’t mean workers will be the ones to get the pay raise. Just because a whole bunch of regulation get cut, doesn’t mean prices on products will go down so that workers can afford them (quality and safety may go down to help the corporation’s bottom line though). Workers, no matter if they are blue collar or white collar, are a ‘human resource’ to the business. If the business can automate those jobs away and turn a profit, then it will. After all that has happened, it’s just mind boggling to me that so many blue collar workers think that what is helping their corporate masters will eventually trickle down to help them.

    1. If it’s good for business, it means that it’s good for the Shareholders, and Executives aren’t going to lose their own jobs and pay by paying a nickel more than they need to pay the laborers, who they will replace with machines at the very first instance it makes economical sense.

      Typically, people who’ve bought into the “what’s good for business is good for the worker” are idiots who’ve never contemplated anything beyond what goes on in their own household, ever.

      1. Their interests are whatever they’ve been trained to internalize as their interests by the people who own and operate this country.

        The people who own and operate industry, and the mainstream media, want uneducated people who they can train to push buttons in the correct order, while they slowly decrease their pay and benefits relative to their own pay and benefits.

        Full stop.

      2. I agree with Nicholas for reasons stated. The trope that the working class is “really” voting for needs we don’t understand bears truth only from the standpoint that that financial and class insecurity are more persuasive than reality. I’m not going to give workers a pass (we are all workers btw) on their responsibility to make more informed voting decisions. Tired of that. Right to work, cuts to workmen’s comp, cuts to hard fought benefits (remember pensions?) have all been glaring political actions that hurt the average working men and women. To glorify or excuse it by inferring democrats were less attentive than republicans to their needs is bunk. What I do believe is that republicans marketed their message more effectively than democrats even when they were lying.

      3. @Chris Ladd Fair enough. I can understand that logic. But if that logic were true, why are the same people who are blue collar while voting for Republicans and against unionization so shocked and upset when THEIR paychecks get cut and THEIR benefits get shorted? Surely someone told them at some point in the past that no one can have it both ways and that there are trade offs to every vote cast. So if blue collar workers are voting for the Republicans and against unionization, then they should be getting what they want and be fine with losing benefits and pay. Yet this same group is always angry that they are being stolen from and blaming immigrants and globalists for what they did to themselves.

        I would be fine with the whole point of their interests not being the economic interests I think it should be. But they still seemed hurt and broken by the damage to their economic interests that you’re claiming they don’t care about primarily. Furthermore, they seem either unable or unwilling to either vote Democrats in to fix their economic problems or find Republicans of certain stripe who might be able to offer an alternative fix to the Democratic ones they claim to hate.

      4. I watched Chris Matthews conduct a town hall in OH last night where the audience was principally working class people who voted for trump. I do not like Matthews badgering interview style, nor do I think he conducted a good town hall. What was extremely evident, however, was the abject ignorance of the assertive trump supporters when pressed about why they believe trump has delivered. It was pitiful to watch and clearly illustrates that most rabid trump supporters are incapable of defending their interests even when given an open mike. Their insecurity, personal failure and lack of accurate supporting information when given the opportunity to justify their decisions were embarrassing to watch. Yet, their votes count just as much as those of informed voters. I am not a snob. I understand many good, desperate and discouraged people voted in hope that trump would better their lives. They believed the n him. They have had almost three years to observe his boastful lies, disrespectful behavior and failure to deliver on his false promises and claims. Some there – mostly the women- (they are better at seeing and admitting the truth) repudiated trump. As poorly run as it was, the town hall affirmed in the starkest terms, that trump supporters are not capable of making informed decisions for president that I will ever understand. I don’t believe this is my failure to understand their interests; rather it is their inability to articulate their own. Better to reach out to new voters and independents than to seek enlightenment of die- hard trump supporters.

      5. “ Their insecurity, personal failure and lack of accurate supporting information when given the opportunity to justify their decisions were embarrassing to watch. “

        Mary, I see some explanation as America’s habit of celebrity worship and living vicariously through others taken to a toxic extreme. Trump is what they wish they could be- he lives a flashy, over the top lifestyle, he says the bigoted/misogynistic things they never dared to, he bullies the people they hate, and so far he has not truly faced the consequences he deserves. It’s a really sad life and they’re not ready to admit the truth. I agree that any attempt to engage them is a waste of time.

        Some Trumpers are fully cognizant of the Devil’s bargain they made, and I also think it’s useless to talk to them.

      6. From my vantage point here in North Carolina, I think a lot of the Trump support boils down to a perceived betrayal people feel about the “New” Democrats who ushered in NAFTA, bailed out banks when communities were profoundly struggling and on and on. All the while, Democrats have for the most part shown a soaring ignorance of the devastation done to communities that used to be thriving. They betrayed their base and then pretended they hadn’t changed.

        When you use the framework of what Democrats became and how they are perceived to have betrayed the working class, it’s not hard to believe that people would then cast their lot with the party that offers them “less government”.

      7. What about the interests of voters who have legally cast votes for a winning candidate only to watch these candidates stripped of their authority to function in their duly elected positions? Nah, it’s not that we don’t understand their “interests”, it’s that they are violating all ethical (and in many cases, legal) norms to impose their interests on others.

        https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2019/06/21/wisconsin-supreme-court-upholds-lame-duck-laws-4-3-vote/1515662001/?

  9. Thanks for the history of unions. I learned something. Unions haven’t simply begun dying because of their bad actions, there has also been a calculated, serious effort by Republicans to kill them because of their support for Democrats. Unless I missed it, I don’t see that ugly fact referenced in your post. I do not dispute that unions have hurt themselves in many cases, but I still maintain that they grew as a result of need, and sadly, working people are still being taken advantage of by management today. Especially today, given the extraordinary income and wealth divide we are witnessing.

    I support the union concept, I am open to the type, but until I see capitalist interests be more responsible for the well being of their workers, I am not going to agree to their demise. It’s very easy to forget who was responsible for many of the basic worker benefits we all enjoy today and take for granted.

    Democrats haven’t done a good enough job of either specifically meeting the needs of workers or marketing what they are doing to try to help. As for them voting for trump – that’s hardly something I’d blame on Democrats. After all, so did Republicans in large numbers. The bottom line is, as usual, the Republicans including trump have done nothing to help the working class. Revisit the republican tax cut and see where those dollars went. Hint: they didn’t help the majority of Americans, but, oh did they make promises.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jun/15/job-losses-trump-tax-cut-at-t-general-motors-wells-fargo

    1. Taft-Hartley, 1947.

      Before then, Unions were increasing bargaining power and were partly responsible for the creation of the middle class after the depression and WWII.

      After then, Unions’ power decreased, and while the middle class was able to increase for a few more decades, like a wave washing ashore a beach.

      Now all of the money is going into the hands of the people who own and operate this country, like a rip current.

  10. But what use is increased employee ownership of companies if, as you predict, everybody that’s going to actually be working in the future is going to be part of an aloof “transience-class” that moves all over the place, a bunch of job-hoppers with no real ties to any one company or anything at all?

  11. I have thought for several years that the US should adopt the German and Japanese app;roach by incorporating labor into the corporate management structure. That would necessitate changing the adversarial relationship between labor and management that is so prevalent in the U.S. It would also tend to lead to more of a horizontal structure for unions, where a single union represented labor in a given company, as opposed to the vertical structure prevalent in the U.S., with one union largely representing an industry, e.g. the UAW and the auto industry. Incorporation on labor into the boards, would also give labor a voice in the management.

    In my own industry, consulting engineering and construction, I noticed throughout my career that the more successful consultants tended to be employee owned or in some cases closely held by families that were involved in the business. They tended to be the firms that were able to retain their employees and in which the employees were most satisfied. They tend to be regional and small to middle sized firms. Typically a crisis would arise when the original founders retired or passed away. Then for the middle sized firms, all too frequently, the firm would be absorbed by a large publicly owned firm. At that point the pressures of maintaining short term profitability and meeting the quarterly projections, tended to result in employees being forced to work excessive hours without compensation and being terminated whenever there was a slow down in work load. All this leads to employee dissatisfaction and loss of key talent. In an industry where successfully obtaining business depends on timely delivery of highly demanding services by skilled professionals the loss of incentive will destroy a business. This has happened far too frequently, so the industry is largely dominated by mega-firms with a number of small local firms.

    Drawing from my experiences, I believe that Warren’s proposal of incorporation of labor representatives into the corporate boards would be a huge boon for American business.

    1. Yes, it’s socialism, without the laborers appropriating ownership.

      Labor should have a real voice in how things are run, not just executives who pay themselves massive incomes while attempting to pay the laborers the least amount legally possible.

    2. Another benefit of having a horizontal structure with one or two unions per company would be that lower level professionals, such as engineers other technical employees would also have representation on the corporate boards. Don’t forget that those groups are also employees and are frequently treated as commodities similar to the blue collar workers.

  12. In my past I have been a union member. My first experience was when my employer was unionized. Being professionals no one in my department joined when it first came in because we were thrown in with unskilled and semiskilled workers. Not much in common. Big mistake.In the first contract we were sacrificed to benefit the majority of workers who had joined the union.

    I and others in my department ended up joining up to protect ourselves from the union. BTW management’s throwing us to the wolves backfired on them. Over the next several years most of us left for greener pastures. Then and today we are very difficult to replace.

    In Florida unions are weak and pretty powerless. Especially ones covering government workers. More like collective begging. What would really help workers is a strong safety net combine with a minimal income like Chris has written about before. Most people want to work. But with this finally barter power would be equal between capital and labor.

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