“Why we need unions and why unions and union labor are in decline and under siege,” by Andrew Schatkin
Some time ago, President Obama infused many billions of dollars into Chrysler Corporation and General Motors to salvage them from possible bankruptcy and possible dissolution as viable companies. General Motors in particular claimed that the pensions and salaries it pays to its workers render it non-competitive with competing motor companies, particularly Japanese companies. In essence and sum, General Motors blamed its financial woes on the bloated and salaries and pensions of its unionized workers.
The social and economic issue that arises if unions render the pay scale and pension benefits so high is that the company cannot compete in the marketplace. Therefore, must be a bad thing and should be eliminated.
However, I argue for unions and the necessity for unions. The union movement had its inception in the l930’s after a great struggle with management brought the working class man and woman into the middle class. That was a good thing since the stronger the middle class, the fewer people in poverty and struggling, and the greater the viability of the social and economic system.
But I argue for unions on a more basic thrust. When one party has all the power, such as management, there is the potential for an abuse of power. Companies will pay the lowest pay scale they can in our capitalist system to get the most work out of their workers. That is not a good thing. Where one party has all the power there is the potential for abuse if not tyranny. It is an unfortunate fact and element of human nature that the party with absolute power may and will abuse it even to the destruction of those over whom they have power.
In the workplace and the marketplace, there must be a balance of power. Workers do not individually have any power over their bosses and employers except in our raw-boned capitalist system to choose to leave or stay. If they stay they think it will benefit, theoretically they can better themselves. This system is too harsh because, in reality, when management has the absolute say, workers may be abused, used, and sometimes destroyed. Before labor unions, there was child labor, seven day a week work weeks, and ten-hour days. Unions brought a balance of power into this unfair system.
In collective numbers, there is strength. An analogy may be made to our democratic society.
The reign on the power of our elected officials is the fact that they must be elected by the people; otherwise, there would be a Hitleresque tyranny. In the same way, collective unionization allows workers to obtain a fair wage and benefits to raise themselves up to a decent standard of living whereby they may own houses and send their children to college and, as I have said, enter the middle class. Without unions we have a system of peonage in which the working class population are virtual peonage labor with no hope of bettering themselves. Unions provide social stability; they provide a balance of power and they provide a better life for the vast majority of people who are working class and who must work to survive. Unions bring the working class population from the edge of survival to a viable and decent standard of living and life.
General Motors workers bargained for pensions and a salary to support themselves and their families not asking for more than the ability to support their wives and children, pay their household mortgages, and have a decent retirement. This is good for us all. This is good for society. Unions are not merely good but necessary because it is the nature of humans to abuse others with they have unchecked power.
I now want to address what is a more pressing issue and that is the decline of unions and the cause of this decline. Unions and the power they at one time possessed is in the decline. At one time strikes, whether the NYC transit workers, the steel workers, and the auto workers were frequent. That is no longer so. I posit two reasons for the decline of union labor. Corporate America, apparently with no opposition from the government, determined to reduce its labor operating costs by outsourcing its operations to third world countries such as Pakistan and Mexico and China where in the absence of unions salaries of workers are slow and there are no benefits. This was a cost benefit decision with the result that there was no longer a need to pay the much higher wages and benefits of unionized labor in the USA.
The second reason for union decline is the policy of the Democratic Party to admit illegal immigrants who again are paid extremely lower wages and no benefits. This illegal labor pool, however favorable they may be for corporate profits, must and will cause and bring about union destruction where the employers who formerly paid union scale wages now pay the bare minimum. President Trump’s election was a response to the Democratic Party’s abandonment of the working class with their policy of admitting illegal immigrants with the result that the union jobs occupied by the working class population have been displaced by this cheap labor and no benefits pool. The Democratic Party, formerly the party of the working class, has abandoned that base for other groups. I do not say that the Democratic Party is not entitled to leave its socialist working class base for others such as feminists and illegal immigrants. This is their right.
But I ask you my black, Latino, and white working class brothers, to recognize that the former Democratic Party of the working man and woman and at the forefront of American minority rights and civil rights has changed its stripes and , and the sooner my working class brothers of all races you understand and recognize, this the sooner you will understand that the Democratic Party that formerly was your friend and represented your interests has flown the coop.