Sunday, December 07, 2008

Walter Reuther would be proud

Pay attention to this development, brought to my attention by the Chi-Town Daily News. A group of factory workers in Chicago are holding a sit-down strike. They are fighting for the full 75 days of pay they say they are due under federal law because their factory closed.

Read that again if you missed it: A sit-down strike. Basically, they are occupying a factory until they get what they want. Sit-downs are a tactic that occasionally worked back in the days when unions were first fighting to get recognized and to get decent wages and working conditions. In 1935, as part of the New Deal, the Wagner Act was passed that set up rules on how unions could organize. The act said that workers could strike, but they could not stage sit down strikes.

Here's my liberarian opposition to the Wagner Act: It has led generations of union members to believe erroneously that unions are a gift bestowed upon them by Uncle Sam, and that in order to protect their union jobs, they need to support politicians with time and money. Indeed, politicians have come to expect and demand money and work from union members. Union members feel compelled by economic necessity to support politicians who take positions contrary to their own on issues of conscience like gun control, abortion and national security. Much like the right-to-work laws hated by unions, the Wagner Act interferes with the right of management and labor to enter into their own freely negotiated contracts.

The hard-to-believe truth is that unions don't need government's help to thrive on behalf of their members. Back in the old days, unions like the United Auto Workers used tough tactics against bosses that used even tougher tactics. The first early successes unions had were not won by government-sanctioned elections, monitored by the federal government. They were won by way of sit-down strikes led by people like Walter Reuther, the former president of the UAW.

Along came President Franklin Roosevelt, who wanted to help organized labor. And he also wanted labor peace during the depression when the idea there might be a revolution wasn't considered all that far-fetched.

And here we are today, with the economy supposedly worse than it's been since the Great Depression. These strikers are making demands of the banks who refuse to loan their employer the money they needed to stay open.

Their complaints against the capitalists are reminiscent of the earliest days of union organizing. Their solution -- the sit down strike -- is right out of the 1930s' playbook. I'm wondering if we are going to see some of that ugliness if the economy starts to get as bad as some of the experts claim it will.

1 comment:

One God said...

Quote:"Here's my liberarian opposition to the Wagner Act:".
Would be a better read if spell check were used...gives more validity.
UAW local 28, Bloomington,IL