Unions 101

There’s an interesting, thoughtful and deeply researched post over at dkos today. It’s a must read. The anti-union sentiment in the comments is a little disturbing, although it does seem to be mostly just kvetching. The simple fact is that there is no way to build a global economy that works for everyone without unions.
The left hasn’t done such a great job of telling our economic story over the past few decades, but unionism is a natural and maybe even inevitable consequence of the rights to free speech and free assembly. It is a huge part of the story of the American economy. The legal and cultural barriers we have placed on forming unions in this country deeply impact those two substantial freedoms.
If you need an illustration of how this plays out in workers’ day to day existence, read about the Wal-Mart workers that are practically forbidden from even talking to each other in Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. Are there unions that need their gates crashed? Sure, but the solution to fixing any democratic institution that needs help is never to just walk away and give up. Individual organizations are different – sometimes those need to be given up on and rebuilt from scratch. But democratic institutions like parties and unions need to be treated with a greater level of respect.
This comment in the thread, with the usual poorly-reasoned anti-union litany of excuses certainly sounded familiar. I heard all of these and more (they forgot “whining about coercion”) while trying to organize UC tech workers for UPTE. I think the eventual route to organizing techies may be more along the lines of a workplace democracy kind of movement, which a lot of workplaces are moving towards anyway since the limitations of the worker/management model are constantly getting more obvious.
While on the subject of thoughtful dkos posts, the last two foundations diaries of mine got picked up in the front page “diary rescues” like this one, which resulted in some interesting discussion, especially for the response to Russel Kirk one. Commenters there asked both for a more summarized form as well as elaboration, and I’ll be trying to provide both very soon.