Ensuring Freedom by Preserving the Values of Trade Unions
Thoughtful committed citizens are the only thing that have ever changed the world.
Anti-union sentiment is increasingly pervading American culture. In fact, one critic says, “The United States in now on the verge of a risky experiment: to become the first parliamentary democracy in modern world history without a substantial trade union movement” (Lichtenstein 66). In addition to weakening bargaining power, the judicial system allows workers to resign in the midst of a strike and scab on coworkers. A huge
number of professionals and supervisors were even deemed exempt from representation (Lichtenstein 66). Legislation and corporate wealth are eroding the power of organized labor and thereby obfuscating workplace democracy; extinguishing employee rights; eroding the living standards of working, working- poor, and middle class Americans; muting the voice of minorities; retarding environmental improvements; increasing corporate domination of politics; and auguring exploitation of workers throughout the world. However, a significant portion of freedoms, to which Americans have become accustomed, would be greatly diminished or non-existent without the social values that are embodied by organized labor.
Evidence suggests that employers seldom behave democratically without the mandate of a higher authority such as the government or a union. It is no wonder that workplace dictatorships are becoming a widespread phenomenon as government regulations fail to adequately protect workers but enhance the power of employers: “Fear of being fired, downsized, laid off, of not making pension time, poverty in a new economy, of part-time and insecure, low-paid jobs, and iron discipline breed a tyrannical workplace” (Wells 33). The power of employers is increasing due to the growing wage inequality, more opportunities for them to relocate where they can find cheap labor, and a popular perception that they can and will relocate (Wells 34). This relationship of employers to employees appears to be no better than a lord’s to a vassal, a king’s to a subject, or even a master’s to a slave. Employees who depend on management for survival, meanwhile, are subject to speedups, lower wages, contracting-out, and a host of other concessions (Wells 34). Unorganized labor positions workers at the mercy of their employers and thereby transforms democracy into a seemingly unattainable, abstract dream.
Arch Puddington, former director for the League of Industrial Democracy, illuminates the flawed arguments of contemporary society. He believes that unions are becoming superfluous with the advent of government rules that encompass safety, health, and sexual harassment. Yet, he assumes that federal regulations are enforced. The garment workers of Lion Apparel in Beattyville, Kentucky, understand that government rules against employer tyranny are not enforced. Formaldehyde fumes, “wages so low that...