Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Kevin Drum, in a post from last week that I've been meaning to link:

Every single human institution or organization of any size has its bad points. Corporations certainly do. The military does. Organized religion does. Academia does. The media does. The financial industry sure as hell does. But with the exception of a few extremists here and there, nobody uses this as an excuse to suggest that these institutions are hopelessly corrupt and should cease existing. Rather, it's used as fodder for regulatory proposals or as an argument that every right-thinking person should fight these institutions on some particular issue. Corporations should or shouldn't be rewarded for outsourcing jobs. Academics do or don't deserve more state funding. The financial industry should or shouldn't be required to trade credit derivatives on public exchanges.

Unions are the most common big exception to this rule. Sure, conservatives will take whatever chance they can to rein them in, regulate them, make it nearly impossible for them to organize new workplaces. But they also routinely argue that labor unions simply shouldn't exist. This is what's happening in Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker isn't satisfied with merely negotiating concessions from public sector unions. He wants to effectively ban collective bargaining and all but do away with public sector unions completely.

Nobody should buy this. Of course unions have pathologies. Every big human institution does. And anyone who thinks they're on the wrong side of an issue should fight it out with them. But unions are also the only large-scale movement left in America that persistently acts as a countervailing power against corporate power. They're the only large-scale movement left that persistently acts in the economic interests of the middle class.

Couldn't agree more.


jason said...

I've been meaning to post this one myself. I swear, it's like vast swaths of the American populace actually want to become somebody's vassal...

Quince said...

Unions are more of a conglomerative movement than they are an organization or institution. Much like prohibition or the civil rights movement, there is an ebb and flow to their relative necessity, growth and overall societal value.

Prohibition receded then resurged with a different focus. Transfat, nicotine are the new alcohol. Effective or not this is how movements are supposed to work

The civil rights movement would LIKE to institutionalize itself but in doing so is merely giving rise to reactionary positions. For intstance Clarence Thomas seems to be reactionaryily motivated by the demeaning pretense of affirmative action. When movements institutionalize themselves their releavance disintegrates as the orignial intent is maintened, not grown, despite becoming stale.

This is what is happening with unions. Instead of accepting change and redirecting their focus accordingly they insist on institutionalizing their initial mission ( representing 12% of the population then calling themselves bastions of the middle class) The result is whosale reaction which inevitably over tips the scales in a new direction.