The Power of Unions

April 22, 2007

The almighty unions of old have been reduced during the course of time to practically powerless organisations relying on the benevolent attitude of the state and its monetary contributions. In actual fact unions have the power that the state wants to give them. It is convenient that to consolidate the impression that unions are of use to the workers, the state turns a blind eye to certain minor strikes that confirm the rule.

Laws that prescribe minimum services decaff totally the importance of a strike that otherwise could be really disruptive of the smooth going of the economy. Our capitalist world rests solidly on the “good-will” of workers and the states have seen to it that this “good-will” be firmly encouraged, but there is still something that unions could do: intervene in politics. For the time being they are the only organisations with capacity of unity existing in the “democratic” world of the deeply lobbied political parties.

There is a hope for the people in strikes, much that our comfortable way of living detests those strikes that may discomfit the usual routine in our lives. We have reached a point in our existence that we are deeply divided in everything. The “divide and conquer” of old has served the capitalistic system, too. Whoever wishes to talk about democracy finds her/himself at a loss to understand how the democracy that we have does not allow for the full, progressive strikes that much did for the labour world. Its excesses, though, also paved the way for a perfection of technology which meant the loss of countless jobs and the institution of unemployment. And when this technology is not enough, then the big companies decide moving to another country where the political conditions do not permit preponderance in workers, the costs of exploitation are considerably lower than those in what we call the civilised world and tax exemptions further pamper the powerful multinationals.

I am not against capitalism as an economic system, in my opinion it is for the time being the best chance that we have to exist, otherwise I wonder what today any other system will do other than return us to our primitive conditions of food for living and cover ourselves in skins and rags. But capitalism must also have its limitations. There must not be excesses in capitalism as there must not be excesses in labour.

There is a chance for the unions to recover their old influence and this chance in my opinion is politics, intervening in politics needs unity and the unions are just the only organisations with a possibility to achieve that unity in our world, not Marxist or Communist unity, not that but the unity necessary to use common sense in all the aspects of our lives.

Which ought to be moderate not aggressive. Understanding not adamant.

After saying all this I’m ready for the stake.


10 Responses to “The Power of Unions”

  1. anticant said

    I agree very much with what you say, Jose, but I fear we shall soon be reduced to starving and living in skins and rags [if we survive] because of the political idiocies of our leaders in starting more and more wars – and inevitably nuclear ones eventually – and not just because of the economic system.

  2. MerkinOnParis said

    Jose, cordially invited.
    I will try and set up two rooms so that you and Anti will never have to meet.
    (Hhhhaha that would spoil all of the fun)

  3. seachanges said

    There are however so many different unions representing different interests depending on where the ‘workers’ work: what may be in the interest of one group of workers, represented by their unions, say the tranpsort workers, may not echo at all with other ‘workers’, say doctors or nurses who need the transport to get to their places of work.
    It will be interesting to see what comes out of France’s election: will Royal win (vaguely left but basically wanting to keep things as they are) or Sargozy (centre right and in favour of more Thatcherite approaches?). One thing everyone seems to agree on and that is that France, with its favourable labour laws, will not be able to survive this way much longer – and so you get the abandoned villages with lots of young unemployed people across the country. I agree with you Jose that it just cannot be all about divide and rule, but that we do require different solutions in our different countries.
    By the way, yes, I am also horrified at the way companies move abroad and use cheap labour, often child labour, to produce the goods (often fashion, cheap clothes), that with the stricter employment laws in our countries cannot be produced at such low prices.

  4. Thanks, always good posts on your blog!

  5. […] have even placed a comment on Jose’s blog, only he has meanwhile moved on from immigration to unions. They are very thoughtfull […]

  6. Great post Jose.
    Below, two songs from the IWW’s Little Red Song Book.

    Dump the Bosses Off Your Back:

    Are you cold, forlorn and hungry?
    Are there lots of things you lack?
    Is your life made up of misery?
    Then dump the bosses off your back!

    Are your clothes all torn and tattered,
    Are you living in a shack?
    Would you have your troubles scattered,
    Then dump the bosses off your back.

    Are you almost split asunder?
    Loaded like a long-eared jack?
    Boob — why don’t you buck like thunder,
    And dump the bosses off your back?

    All the agonies you suffer
    You can end with one good whack-
    Stiffen up, you orn’ry duffer –
    And dump the bosses off your back.

    Popular Wobbly:

    T-Bone Slim, 1920

    I’m as mild mannered as I can be
    And I’ve never done them harm that I can see
    Sill on me they put a ban, and they throw me in the can,
    They go wild, simply wild over me.

    They accuse me of rasclity
    But I can’t see why they always pick on me;
    I’m as gentle as a lamb, but they take me for a ram.
    They go wild, simply wild over me.

    Oh the “bull” he went wild over me.
    And he held his gun where everyone could see;
    He was breathing rather hard, when he saw my union card,
    He went wild, simply wild, over me.

    Then the judge, he went wild over me.
    And I plainly saw we never could agree;
    So I let the man obey what his conscience hat to say,
    He went wild, simply wild over me.

    Oh the jailer, he went wild over me,
    And he locked me up and threw away the key;
    It seems to be the rage, so they keep me in a cage,
    They go wild simply wild over me.

    They go wild simply wild over me,
    I’m referring to the bedbug and the flea;
    They disturb my slumber deep and I murmer in my sleep,
    They go wild, simply wild over me.

    Will the roses grow wild over me
    When I’m gone into the land that is to be?
    When my soul and body part, in the stillness of my heart,
    Will the roses grow wild over me?

  7. Jose said

    These lyrical contributions of yours, 1loneranger, are really great, it looks like they sweeten the topic indeed.

    This is a piece of news that shows how politicians’ attitudes towards unions are decidedly contrary and proves unions are really the great foe of Great Capitalism. The great foe of corporatocracies or plutocracies. Because they are the ones with real capacity of gathering persons and opinions.


    “For years, companies have been keeping workers from exercising their legal rights to organize and exacerbating America’s income and wealth inequality. A new bill could help reverse that trend, but does it stand a chance against Bush’s veto pen?
    One of the most important bills for working Americans of the last 10 years is likely to go down in defeat, even though Democrats control Congress. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is an anti-union-busting measure that would restore the right to form unions, a right working people have enjoyed mostly on paper since the “Reagan revolution” stacked the deck against workers trying to organize. The House passed the bill last month, but it’s widely expected to be defeated in the Senate, and if it does survive, it will almost certainly fall to George Bush’s veto pen.

    If EFCA is defeated, it will carry little or no political cost, largely because America’s corporatocracy has done a bang-up job of framing the debate. A coalition of big business groups conducted a wildly misleading poll, one that gave respondents the (false) idea that the bill will diminish rather than protect workers’ rights – specifically, their right to a fair vote about whether to unionize. They’ve taken that spin and synchronized it across the whole of the conservative communications infrastructure – from business-funded think tanks to right-wing blogs, to the Wall Street Journal editorial page to lawmakers walking the halls of Congress. ”



  8. earthpal said

    Jose, excuse me for interrupting the flow…you’ve been given a Thinking Blogger Award:

  9. tyger said

    Excellent short essay Jose. I very much enjoyed it.

    I too believe that the market is the best current solution to the economic question, and yes, we need the safety net.

    Unions have a role while they remain democratic and legit. Too many have become as corruptible as any government. Organisations usually dissent into corruption.

  10. Jose said

    Thank you, Tyger.

    The problem with everything is the persons, governments, unions, religious communities, soccer clubs, everything where the human hand is present corruption also is. But there are many more honest people than corrupt ones, I am sure of this, and it is the honest people that must prevail.

    Laws are there for something, and if they do not address particular situations then laws must be changed.

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