The Fallacy of Unions

Because it had always been that way, none could think differently. From time immortal, labor was that what did much of the work of production. There is now a generation, maybe two, on this earth, most of whom will never know labor; will seldom see it performed. The energy for their world will not come from the sweat of the back’s of coal miners. So, if it wasn’t (production = material + labor) what was the real equation for production? The input was work, not labor. Today, machines, can and do, do the work. These machines doing the work are becoming more and more intelligent.

Without the help of governmental restrictions on immigration, the unions would never have been able to organize the coal miners; they had no leverage as long as there was a constant flow of poor and desperate immigrants. Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park is nearby. The Park was once site for the manufacture of gunpowder and dynamite. Originally, the company had been located in what is now known as Glen Canyon Park in San Francisco (owners had one of the original licenses to manufacture dynamite). In 1869, an explosion destroyed every building on the site (including the fence around the plant), killed 2 and injured 9. So, they moved the plant to what is now the Sunset District of SF (area was sand dunes then). Blew up again. This time they moved across the Bay to Berkeley. When the plant in Berkeley blew up, it killed everyone on site. Wound up at, the then remote, unpopulated, Pt. Pinole on San Pablo Bay. The point? They never had any trouble hiring immigrants, mostly Croats, it seems, to work in the plants.

Today, in the meatpacking industry, it is much the same as it was in the 19th century. See Propublica’s ‘Battle for Waterloo‘.

Tyson hires desperate immigrants because it knows they will work in the dangerous plants for low pay. This, a consequence of Reagan’s busting of the meatpacker’s unions, unions that were much a consequence of Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’. Welcome back to the late 19th; thanks, Ronnie. Tyson, probably John H., dropped a dime on a call to the White House. Got what he wanted, the essential designation, and kick-started Mitch’s crusade for immunity from prosecutions. Could have made the changes necessary for worker safety, but that would so late 20th century. Surprise, Tyson doesn’t hire line workers directly; uses a contractor.

Walmart pays better than it used to, but still doesn’t pay very well; doesn’t have to. Suspect that their biggest margins are from monopsony, cost of labor may not even be too big a factor for the bottom line, but why pay more than you have to? Let the taxpayer take up the slack. They line up for these low paying jobs. Glad to get them. Sam was from Arkansas and Arkansas is very much a southern state; a right to work state. A mentality that was never one to give workers their head.

Same can be said for Amazon, Target, … They don’t have to, so why should they? They needn’t fear the union. Labor has leverage when there’s a shortage. There’s a glut. Labor has leverage when it can threaten to bring things to a halt. It can’t.

Abandon all hope? No, but the answers lie not with the past. They will come from today’s reality. First, we must preserve democracy. Democracy is the key. With democracy, we can pass laws for worker safety, wage standards, …; laws for better distribution of wealth. Without democracy, all hope is lost for the non-investor, not wealthy, class. The money behind the likes of Cruz, McConnell, …, understands this full well; thus the direct assault on democracy. They’ve no fear of unions; know that unions are of the past. They do fear redistribution in a time of gross labor surplus; fear that in a free and fair election, they would see their share greatly diminished.