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A question for my American correspondents

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May. 20th, 2009 | 10:19 pm
music: DJ Zinc/"Super Sharp Shooter"

What does the word "union" imply to you? As in labour union, not, you know, set theory or something.

(edit: I'll explain why I ask in a further post - I don't want to go around saying the same thing to everyone in the comments)

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Comments {11}

Teresa

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from: bravencrazy
date: May. 20th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
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A group of workers organized together in a collective, which then collectively bargains with an employer regarding wages, benefits, work hours and conditions, etc. The union is supposed to represent the best interest of the workers, which leads to my editorial below:

IMO, while unions were started in the beginning of the 20th Century to combat truly horrific work conditions (Google "Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire," which arguably ignited the modern labor movement), unfortunately they've become corrupt and now represent the best interests of the union, not the workers.

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The Princess of Id

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from: danaseilhan
date: May. 21st, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)
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I read about that fire when I was a kid. To this day, when someone tells me with a straight face that business doesn't need government intervention in the matter of treatment of workers, I point to that story as an example of why they're full of shit.

Unions do still sometimes work for the betterment of the workers. It depends on the union. Whatever your feeling about firearms, I once knew a guy who worked on the police force of a community college, and this force was under the aegis of the city police force. Unlike the rest of the city police force, these cops weren't permitted to carry arms. Unfortunately, students sometimes break laws and bring their guns to school--and there are sometimes trespassers after hours as well. So it made things interesting. The union did its best to change that state of affairs; that guy and I stopped speaking with one another before I heard about the outcome. (He's also quit the police force. I got an idea he had found out just how mean and wicked cops can really be when they let the authority go to their heads. He hadn't believed me, before then.)

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lilyvalley

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from: lilyvalley
date: May. 20th, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
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An labor force that negotiates for the employees.

The good guys. Most of the time.

Yes, sometimes unions get greedy. Of course they do. They're made of people, after all. (Why is greed only good for the business owner, but never good for the employee? Why is it celebrated when owners and CEOs make fortunes, but it's looked down upon when employees group together to try to make their slice of the pie just a little bigger?)

Right now....I see unions everywhere conceding some of their hard-fought gains of the past. Taking pay cuts, giving up paid days off, taking on higher insurance deductibles and copays. Just so the people can have jobs. CEOs walking away with millions, after all but ruining companies, while the union workers give in and give up. Because what other options do they have? Their parachutes aren't golden, or silver, or even tin. And they sure as hell won't slow the descent into poverty for long.

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Madeleine

(no subject)

from: madeleine
date: May. 28th, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
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Wow! yessss I agree 100% Actually I made a post almost identical in sentiment in Fridge's journal when he explains his reasoning for asking about unions.

I join the union any time I work in a place that has them. The worst places I ever worked at were the places that *forbade* unions. For good reason of course: what a bunch of dicks.

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get privacy for $5 via aussieintn

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from: aussieintn
date: May. 21st, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
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Well, I'm not American, but I've seen unions from several sides. I've been a union member, my brother is a union organizer, I've associated with anarcho-syndicalists and Wobblies, and at one time I was employed by a law firm that represented corporations in workplace law.

If it wasn't for unions, the difference between working poor and the rich would be even more vast than it is. Also, in my experience, quite often workers can see obvious (to them) errors of management that they can effectively oppose through their union, thus limiting some of the more extreme reactions that are not in management's own interests let alone the interests of workers.

I wish my workplace was unionized.

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tim

(no subject)

from: kumokasumi
date: May. 21st, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
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Generally nothing fantastic; perhaps as dangerous to a worker as their employers. Another authority to be dealt with and appeased more than something that genuinely represents a worker's best interests. Overgrown and lethargic, if not actually hidebound; generally opposed to things that look like efficiency or change. Useful politically (good sources of campaign/GOTV assistance in particular) and so probably courted more than is really appropriate.

Nobody in my immediate family has any personal experience with unions, so grains of salt are appropriate. I'm prepared to like the idea of a labor union but I've never been impressed by media coverage about them.

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The Princess of Id

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from: danaseilhan
date: May. 21st, 2009 05:33 am (UTC)
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Yeah well, the media favors big business too.

That said, I can kind of see your point. And I hate it that progressive/leftist discussions of wages and poverty always boil down to whether "the worker" can maintain employee status. We do realize there are thousands and thousands of small business owners in the United States--some of which are sole proprietors with no employees--right? I think the central issue as pertains to American labor is we've let businesses, particularly corporations, get too big so they gobble up slices of the pie that ought to have belonged to smaller establishments. And it isn't even that it's more efficient--at the end of the day when you count all the externalities, big business overwhelmingly does a worse job than small. It's about profit, pure and simple. But it screws everybody.

If the big fish weren't in the pond suckin' up all the food the little fishies were counting on, there'd be a lot fewer of us minnows starving. We wouldn't even have to swim in schools, if we didn't want to.

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(Deleted comment)

eiaboca

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from: eiaboca
date: May. 22nd, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
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They certainly needed to exist when they were formed and the workers had no power!

But as to what I think unions are, of course there are the standard definitions, many mentioned above. But I think every institution should constantly be in the process of being made over, because people and society are constantly changing.

Unions and corporations become corrupt, have new ones.

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eiaboca

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from: eiaboca
date: May. 22nd, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
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And I now realize you said "still."

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Union

from: anonymous
date: May. 22nd, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
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A union exists to stop the fat cats getting fatter at the expense of the skeletal cats.

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testcase

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from: testcase
date: May. 22nd, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
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i wish i was in one.

i do think in some sectors there has been too much collusion between unions and business and this has led to some unions really selling out the people they are suppose to represent.

also, unions here are not linked to socialist ideals. unions purged many of those people in the 50s.

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