In the midst of a Facebook discussion about the possible reasons for Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin, a participant stated,
[T]here is an incredible amount of hostility towards Unions, and a unique hostility towards Public-Sector Unions. If you look at what the Unions were fighting for it’s very hard for a private sector employee to get excited about it. “Oh you want me to help you retire at 50, keep your job despite gross incompetency, 5 weeks vacation, and to top it all off raise my taxes to pay for it?”
My response was,
If I rewrite your “keep your job despite gross incompetency” as “no firing without due process” then the deal sounds like a good one, one that *all* American workers should be trying for. Unfortunately, brainwashed private sector workers, rather than forming unions and getting a good deal like that for themselves would rather drag everyone else down to their miserable, overworked, servile state.
I want to try to expand on this little exchange, because I think it contains a tiny insight about the poor state of unionized labor today.
Organized, unionized labor is on the run in the US. A tiny fraction of American workers are members of unions, and that number looks destined to decline. Part of the reason is the ‘incredible amount of hostility’ referred to above, always visibly on display when a non-unionized worker finds out:
Unions raise wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by about 28%’
Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.
[They are] more likely to have a guaranteed benefit in retirement [and] their employers contribute 28% more toward pensions.
Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays).
The correct response to this from a non-unionized worker should be, ‘Damn, that sounds like a sweet deal; how do I get a piece of the action?’ At which point, he responds favorably the next time a union organizer contacts him, fills out the election card, and welcomes the NLRB to make sure the NLRA is properly implemented in his workplace.
Of course, none of that happens. The average American worker’s response is, ‘How dare people organize themselves into collective bargaining units to resist the almost unlimited powers of employers and ensure a better deal for themselves?’ At which point, he throws his weight behind every anti-union force that he can find, thus conspiring against his own economic interests.
The sad truth is that the American working class has been convinced to look beyond itself, to not think of itself as a working class, but rather as one that is headed elsewhere, to the magical land of the 1%, except that they don’t have tickets, will be refused visas if they apply, and if they ever make it past the border guards, will promptly be deported. It has been taught to disdain its current status in the interests of continual aspiration with no regard whatsoever for all those forces that work–overtime–to make sure their aspirations are foiled.
Misery needs company indeed.