Saturday, February 19, 2011
Ruffians Intoxicated With Power, Or Debunking the Myth That Unions "Used" To be Good
The goal of this essay is to directly rebut the often repeated myth that "There was a time when we needed unions." or "Unions used to be good but now they are out of control." I have heard these phrases tossed about by countless people in light of the recent turmoil in Wisconsin, and it is my goal to debunk that myth.
I am a Bible believing Christian, as if there is another kind of Christian, my first and foremost philosophic loyalty is to the principles presented to us in the Word of God. When approaching any subject we approach it with these lenses on, and analyze it as faithfully as we can in light of this worldview. Some simple Biblical principals for us to apply would be moral commands like "You shall not steal." or "You shall not bear false witness" or "You shall not murder." (Deut 5) If we really meditate upon these we see that their application is broader than we may think at first glance.
For instance the application of the command to not steal, is expanded by the apostle Paul to a positive of working with ones hands (Eph 4). Seeing the positive as being included in the negative "You shall not..." allows us to see further what is commanded of us. The opposite of not stealing then is to work hard and acquire your own property honestly that you may be charitable to others and respect the property rights of others. Likewise, the negative prohibition of murder would also include the positive command to respect and value life.
When we take this lens and look at politics or in the essay to come, labor unions, the main thing it seems to me to bear in mind is to call evil evil, and good good. Forget who or what we have been told are the "good" guys, we rather need to let the Bible inform us as to who are the good guys and the bad guys. Government and the state aligned media strike me as very adept at alchemizing rottenness and calling it a virtue. This is abundantly true when we look at the history and effect of labor unions. Ever since the kettle began to boil over in Madison WI, I have heard time and time again from people who actually support the Governor in his fight with the unions, that unions used to be good, we needed them at one time.
In the past labor unions truly were freedom fighters, but now they just are out of control. That is the common view of unions, and I find it very interesting how many times I have heard that same line, it tells me there is a state indoctrinated myth needing to be smashed.
But Before We Start:
So, what is a labor union? In short it is a collective, somewhat like a Borg ship on Star Trek though less attractive, as the Borg never pretended to be saving humanity from some great evil. In the words they would use today workers are united in "solidarity" making themselves able to stand as one man. The "solidarity" language sounds less commie than "collective" and thus is preferred, but a skunk called by any other name...
The Labor Union Myth
The simple narrative surrounding labor unions goes something like this, there are these greedy capitalist bosses who through sheer luck of the draw have acquired enough wealth to run a business making widgets that requires laborers. Being the greedy scumbag that he is, the bottom line for the capitalist is profit, and this is of course anathema to our more "socially" minded friends. Thus, the owner will treat workers like garbage, pay them as little as possible, make them work 23 hour shifts and fire them when they pass our from exhaustion. Humanity will be forced to endure this torment unless someone can save us.
Enter our valiant hero the labor union to save humanity from this misery, workers band together and essentially are 1 giant worker, big enough to stand up to the capitalist pig and make him treat the workers right (see illustration to the left). The workers being one solid unit walk out of the widget factory and go on strike holding signs declaring what a bad man the capitalist is.
The capitalist may send out thugs to beat up the peaceful strikers for refusing to work in his factory. The union strikers take the beatings like Gandhi, and refuse to go back to work until they get a raise. The capitalist stunned and befuddled feels ashamed and repents giving the workers a hefty raise, a 40 hour 5 day work week, 10 weeks vacation a year, a 401k plan, healthcare, and paternity leave.
It is also because of unions and their effulgent love for humanity that children no longer are forced to work in the widget mines, workers have air conditioning, and a general spirit of love and unity abounds everywhere the benevolent hand of the labor union has been fortunate enough to touch. This overflow of bliss can be most richly observed in the model cities of Detroit and Gary Indiana, where unionism has had some of its most profound impacts. Stand in awe you scoffers, you who doubt the greatness of the labor union have Detroit to rebuke you!
Labor Union Reality
Alright lets get real here, so how does this labor union thing really work? Specifically, lets start with the "weapon" of unions, the strike, how does a strike really work?
How a Strike Really Works
The only way a strike will succeed is if the union strikers get violent, they prevent "scabs" (People willing to work) from going to work in the capitalists factory, they destroy property, and violate property rights (through blocking entry to the property). Or, Biblically, they need to break the 6th and 8th commandments for a strike to have any hope of working. But, not only do the union strikers need to do all of those things to succeed, they also need one more vital ingredient for success: they need to have the government support them in these dastardly acts.
I mean just think about it for a minute, if you were a factory owner and a bunch of your workers all of a sudden decided they were not going to go back to work until you gave them a raise and dental coverage, meanwhile there are plenty of people who would love to work at the rate the unionized guys are now refusing, what would you do? Well, you'd just fire the ingrates and hire people who are happy to work on the terms the previous employees refused to work at.
Thus, if the strike is going to succeed the union strikers need to prevent you from getting new workers in the factory, which is why the strikers surround the factory. Anyone trying to get in to work in the factory is beaten up by the union strikers and given derogatory names like "scab".
In sensible response to this thuggery, factory owners in the 1800's hired private security firms like the Pinkertons or "strike busters" so they could get workers into their factory and product in and out of the factory, thus keeping the factory running. Also, before the government sided with the unions, police and militia were used to stop union violence and protect private property.
A classical historical example of the supposed good early unions is the "Homestead Strike". In this instance hired Pinkertons were trying to sneak into the private property of Andrew Carnegie which had essentially been seiged by maniacal strikers. The Pinkertons crossed an abutting river at 4 AM, and, upon being noticed by the drooling thug strikers, were greeted with a flurry of gunshots from the same. After the ensuing firefight a number of people were wounded and killed in the union induced violence.
The Pinkertons, not having the element of surprise on their side and being outgunned and outnumbered, were forced to surrender. After being granted "safe passage" out of the strike zone the Pinkertons were forced to walk through a tunnel of strikers receiving peltings of rotten fruit, urine, and club blows upon their exit, many were beaten unconscious.
Eventually, martial law was declared the state militia was called up (now the federalized national guard) and the union degenerates were thankfully thwarted.
It is difficult to imagine what sort of twisted worldview would view the strikers in the Homestead strike as the persecuted party fighting for liberty. Yet, as I said before, I don't know how many times I have heard the refrain that although unions seem pretty crummy now they used to be good. That's the big lie that nearly everyone believes, in reality unions always were thugs, Unionism after all is based off of commie philosophy which has as it's backbone Lenin's maxim:
"The scientific concept, dictatorship, means neither more nor less than unlimited power resting directly on force, not limited by anything, not restrained by any laws or any absolute rules. Nothing else but that." (Vladamir Lenin)
Another charming example of these early union strikers is the "Pullman strikes", in this case the boobery was whipped up into a union striking frenzy by Communist agitator Eugene Debs. The strike began in response to a recession induced wage cut for Pullman Palace Car Company railway workers. Unions then, like unions today, simply could not understand an economic situation where it would be justified to see their wages lowered in exchange for remaining employed.
The union strikers immediately became wild and violent, attacking numerous railroad owned properties and persons not associated with the union. In the wake of their marauding savagery 7 buildings were burned down, numerous people ("scabs") were violently assaulted, 13 killed, and in today's dollars roughly $9 million worth of damage was done by these rascals. In the end the rampaging brutes were only quelled by a force 12,000 strong US troops.
The Only Way Unions Can Succeed
Given the above examples, how in the world can a union succeed in getting what it wants? The answer is simple: government intervention.
As has been shown in two famous strikes above that unions tend to have a propensity towards violent outbursts, it would seem to me that any rational person would recoil in horror at these episodes cited above. Well, rationality seems to be short in supply.
I know it might be difficult to believe, but in the mind of the public the strikers with all of their violence, and encroachments on private property, came to be viewed as heroes and martyrs. I ask myself how in the world these ruffians could be viewed in this light, but, then I remember this is the same public that built a Greek temple in devout honour to Abraham Lincoln, housing his marbled likeness on a great white throne of judgment. The same Lincoln who waged a war causing over a million deaths in order to, "free the slaves" as the accepted myth goes.
In short, people tend to like who they are told to by the media.
The Event That Shifted Government Actions Toward Union Violence
So, suffice it to say that the public, already viewing the rogues in unions as heroes, became all the more sympathetic and outraged when renegade strikers in Ludlow CO got a teaspoon of what the Native Americans received in 50 gallon buckets at the hands of the US government. In this instance dubbed by the media the "Ludlow Massacre" a number of striker's wives and children died in a shoot out with US troops. As a result, there was no end to the rage of the public. It was that event that caused the government to cease protecting persons and property of employers and rather jump in and begin its regulation of labor, using the unions as their excuse to expand the size of government.
In light of the Ludlow strike I have to ask why strikers who are in a southern standoff with State Troops would have women and children present on what for all intensive purposes is a battlefield? That seems pretty idiotic, I know if I was in a gunfight my first thought would be how to make sure my wife and kids are safe, so why would they have their weaker vessels in harms way? Nonetheless, it is a tragedy that women and children died, but that in no way justifies the striking union's thuggish manner in which they attempted to advance their cause.
(Left and above, strikers scream at "scabs" going to work on terms the strikers refuse)
From then on the government generally would turn a blind eye to union violence and cease to perform its primary function of protecting persons and property. This can be seen in strikes after this event where union thugs were allowed to beat up scabs, take over private property, and have reigns of terror with immunity while police turned a blind eye, perhaps more so recently because police are all unionized as well.
How Government Acts as a Club on Behalf of Unions
Labor unions generally have a thoroughly unearned reputation of fighting for the little guy, making sure workers are treated fairly. Nothing can be further from the truth. Unions through teaming up with government actually restrict entry into fields of labor, thus giving union members a pay raise through keeping other workers out of said field of work.
Restriction of entry is done through requiring licenses to do certain work, like plumbing, electrical, and carpentry. These trades are all able to be learned on the job in an apprenticeship type of setting. But, rather than allowing that to occur, the unions restrict entry through the use of government requiring an obscene amount of schooling in order to obtain a license to do legally work in these trades. This is why plumbers and electricians can make $30-$100 an hour. The wages for these trades are kept artificially high by restricting entry into the fields.
For instance, if you want to be an electrician you don't buddy up with an electrician and learn the trade until you feel you can do the work on your own, that would make sense wouldn't it? Rather, you go to the government/union approved trade schools and put in the 4-6 years and get a government issued license allowing you to work. This is all justified sanctimoniously by the tired, "It's for the public's safety" line incessantly used by government to reassure the boobus that what looks like a scam and smells like a scam really is blessing.
This same union fascist use of government gimmick applies to innumerable other trades such as Barbary and Hairstyling, Machine Operating, Real Estate, Law, and Taxi cabbing to name a few. If we think about it honestly we will sensibly ask, do you really need to go to school and get a license to cut hair? Or to sell houses? Or to drive a taxi cab?
In all of these examples the unions are not teamed up to fight some wicked capitalist, but rather to club their fellow man and keep out entry into these fields through government regulation, thus artificially driving up their wages. Grasping this one point entirely shifted my perspective on unions: labor unions are not in competition with the boss, they are in all actuality in competition with other workers, particularly the non-union workers. That being the case, wouldn't it be easier to have the government beat up the "scabs" for you?
You can actually read of instances of police stings being done on plumbers, electricians, and cab drivers for operating without a license. Or, to put it more accurately, these were union beat downs of "scabs", that is after all the exact equivalent of what it is to be an unlicensed plumber.
In the disgusting article (linked to above) written by a flaming authoritarian neo-con on the plumbers he actually refers to the customers who choose to hire the unlicensed contractors as "victims". Furthermore, in the same article, you can see the licensed union contractors in full support of the crackdown, gee I wonder why? Could it have anything to do with knocking out their competition? The same is the case with the news article on the cab business operating without the government issued licenses.
I began this post with a reference to the law of God, in the end that is to be our guide, not whether we personally benefit from a union arrangement or have family that does. We have seen that unions and their weapon of striking can only succeed to the use of violence and violating of property rights. Biblically, we know without a doubt that this is directly in opposition to the 6th and 8th commandments, and thus is thoroughly reprehensible. Unionism, Biblically speaking, is immoral if these are the means it uses to achieve it's end.
Forming a union itself is not sinful, nor is striking to try to get a raise, the problem is that these means would never succeed without violence. And, even then violence is not enough, we need greater violence (The government) to support the unions through law for them to succeed. On that note we need to remember that having the government act as one's thug is no more moral than acting as a thug one's self.
I plan to address the needed political reforming of education as well as the impact of public employee unions and the Wisconsin mess in particular in upcoming posts. In this post I wanted mainly to smash the "There was a time when we needed unions" myth.
On a closing note the next time we hear the rubbish about how unions gave us the weekend please join me in a hearty belly laugh, as last I checked the weekend was God's idea (see the 4th commandment) and let us not ascribe to Commie thugs what was really the gift of God.