Thursday, February 17, 2011

An upside to draconian anti-labor moves?

Organized labor has been stagnant for years. A lot of that problem can be attributed to the success of anti-labor ideology, restrictions on secondary activity, the ability of management to stretch out and taint the election process, and permanent replacements in non-unfair labor practice strikes. Admittedly, the proposed Wisconsin crackdown is on public sector unions, which I know less about and have been led to believe are more successful than their private counterparts.

However, the Wisconsin policy, with its proposal to break strikes by force and the outrage it has created, remind me of the unstable situation that brought on the legitimation of unions in the early 20th century.

Congress didn't pass the National Labor Relations Act to protect workers. It did it because labor unrest and business' myopic refusal to negotiate in good faith was generating a crisis. It was an unstable time with many possibilities, based on which faction was able to hegemonize the situation and direct it to its advantage. The blossoming labor movement could have flourished, bringing about more fundamental economic changes. Instead, we got watered down collective bargaining and an election process weighted in favor of management. Interstate commerce was saved and shop floor unrest was stabilized.

I wonder if the shortsighted overreach by anti-labor ideologues can show how much we've given up or lead us to fight for alternatives that could once not even be uttered.
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