LX

On the complexity of trade unions:

(Martin Glaberman talking about a case where the workers choose to not unionize) – “Here’s the intriguing thing, but again you have to have a certain sense of what the hell you are looking at. Most of the production workers were women. Most of the set-up men were men and it was a non-union shop. There were at least three attempts to organize it. Teamsters came and I think the UAW tried twice, but they could not organize the plant. My wife and I talked about it and she described it as a pretty straightforward situation. Everyone who worked there had either worked in union plants or had a husband who worked in a union plant. They knew what the hell it was about. They weren’t anti-union southerners just up from the farm or anything like that. What they knew was, if the union came in two things would happen: They would get a wage increase, and the work would speed-up. That was the trade off in the Big Three. You get paid fringe benefits outside of work, but the work gets worse. They simply decided, passively, that because they were women they could rely on another pay-cheque. They always assumed there was another main income in the family, but whether they really did or not doesn’t matter, they would rather work at the level they were working and forgo the wage increases. They voted against the union. Now formally, that’s a reactionary position: You’re against the union. How can you be against the union? But if you try to find out why people think that way you gotta learn something you’re not going to learn if you think everything they do that doesn’t agree with you is wrong! It makes sense that people make that choice. It also tells you something about the limits of the union movement which the old left has never understood. The union is an unqualified plus, right? In ordinary situations I would say yes, but you have to understand the contradictions and so forth.”

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