The Legacy Labor Movement Has Lost Its Way
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  • matt

    Why would anyone – under any circumstances link or quote mcmegan???? (Unless of course, its about himalayan salt or preindustrial female cooking roles). One word mr read. Innumerate.

  • I’ve never understood why unions don’t make a play to actually take ownership of their companies. If they’re so smart and moral, let them buy and run the companies they work for.

    How’s that for a new strategy. Let them grow by employing more people in their successful businesses.

  • Luke Lea

    “American workers could use some help; if the legacy labor movement can’t provide that — and thirty years of ineffective flailing about suggests strongly that it can’t — someone else needs to figure out how.”

    My poor Daddy would be spinning in his grave if he knew how far organized labor has fallen. He’s the Yankee in our family, who moved down South to Chattanoog to go to prep school when his father died, and subsequently married my mother at the start of the Depression. They were both public school teachers, and when the lay-offs began, Daddy organized a local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the first in the South, maybe the first, I don’t know.

    Anyway, he had such a good time that he went into the labor movement full-time, first for the International Lady Garment Workers, then at the local level as head of the Central Labor Council in Chattanooga. During that period he met Estes Kefaufer, who was a conservative at the time, and completely turned him around on the labor issue; they became life-lomg friends and political allies (I still have the silver cup Estes gave my parents when I was born).

    By the 1940’s Chattanooga was a union town and one of the dirtiest cities in America: foundries, boiler makers, TNT plants, steel, Dupont, etc.. My parents loved the political game — were devoted to FDR — never communists, in fact fought them — and Americans for Democratic Action (I can remember Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., coming to a party at our house. When elections rolled around the long-boxes of file cards came out and they organized every last precinct in the city — and they won, every time. Daddy was considered one of the most powerful men in town even 30 years later, when he had been gone for twenty years, such was his reputation.

    Later he headed the Tennessee Federation of Labor in Nashville, then finished his career in D.C. working for Meany, in charge of organizing state and local central bodies and their political action committees across the country.

    What’s the point here? My father was an educated man from an educated family. He had a “Harvard” accent in our family lore, was organized, persevering, conscientious. , honest, a man of his word: In other words a Yankee. He used to joke that most of his “brothers” in the movement were Catholics and Jews. But they were all talented and smart with a sense of humor. And they loved politics.

    As Charles Murray pointed out, working Americans don’t have that kind of representation anymore. The collective bargaining concept may be flawed — I think it is, especially for public employees — but in an imperfect world it was better than nothing. Looking ahead I’d like to see a national labor party dedicated to working families the same way the Republican party in the past has been dedicated to business. It may be a new party. It may take over the Democratic Party. Or — who knows? — it may take over the Republican Party!

    So desperate are the times that I might even vote for Palin. At least she knows that world.

  • “American workers could use some help; if the legacy labor movement can’t provide that — and thirty years of ineffective flailing about suggests strongly that it can’t — someone else needs to figure out how.”

    My poor Daddy would be spinning in his grave if he knew how far organized labor has fallen. He’s the Yankee in our family, who moved down South to Chattanoog to go to prep school when his father died, and subsequently married my mother at the start of the Depression. They were both public school teachers, and when the lay-offs began, Daddy organized a local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the first in the South, maybe the first, I don’t know.

    Anyway, he had such a good time that he went into the labor movement full-time, first for the International Lady Garment Workers, then at the local level as head of the Central Labor Council in Chattanooga. During that period he met Estes Kefaufer, who was a conservative at the time, and completely turned him around on the labor issue; they became life-lomg friends and political allies (I still have the silver cup Estes gave my parents when I was born).

    By the 1940’s Chattanooga was a union town and one of the dirtiest cities in America: foundries, boiler makers, TNT plants, steel, Dupont, etc.. My parents loved the political game — were devoted to FDR — never communists, in fact fought them — and Americans for Democratic Action (I can remember Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., coming to a party at our house. When elections rolled around the long-boxes of file cards came out and they organized every last precinct in the city — and they won, every time. Daddy was considered one of the most powerful men in town even 30 years later, when he had been gone for twenty years, such was his reputation.

    Later he headed the Tennessee Federation of Labor in Nashville, then finished his career in D.C. working for Meany, in charge of organizing state and local central bodies and their political action committees across the country.

    What’s the point here? My father was an educated man from an educated family. He had a “Harvard” accent in our family lore, was organized, persevering, conscientious. , honest, a man of his word: In other words a Yankee. He used to joke that most of his “brothers” in the movement were Catholics and Jews. But they were all talented and smart with a sense of humor. And they loved politics.

    As Charles Murray pointed out, working Americans don’t have that kind of representation anymore. The collective bargaining concept may be flawed — I think it is, especially for public employees — but in an imperfect world it was better than nothing. Looking ahead I’d like to see a national labor party dedicated to working families the same way the Republican party in the past has been dedicated to business. It may be a new party. It may take over the Democratic Party. Or — who knows? — it may take over the Republican Party!

    So desperate are the times that I might even consider voting for Palin. At least she knows that world of physical work.

  • I throw this out there… I see today’s modern temp agencies (ie. Manpower) as the new kind of “union.” I have been watching my friend be a member/employee of a temp agency this past three years and they offer him health insurance, benefits, and job switching opportunities. He has worked for two different tech companies that last three years, but he gets his paycheck and benefits from the temp agency. The temp employee is paying dues “indirectly” because the agency gets a commission or cut from the employer and then passes the remaining wage to the temp employee. I would like to see the temp agency model expand into agencies that offer job opportunities, skill training, resume building etc.

  • Thrasymachus

    I think the successor to unions (if indeed one ever emerges) is more likely to evolve out of professional associations and certification-providing entities than from temp agencies. Their income is sourced from the ultimate employer, so their incentives all direct them to drive as hard a bargain as possible *against* the labor pool… that’s how a temp agency creates value.

    A professional association, on the other hand, is funded by its members… its incentives run the other way, towards setting minimum benefits and compensation for workers who if certifies or who belong to it. The the trick, of course, is for those associations to find a way to provide enough added value to make it worthwhile for employers to pay their premium… or, in the alternative, to either lock up enough of the talent or gain enough credibility in the marketplace that *not* using their people is seen as the riskier play. For instance, if it became legal tomorrow for anyone who wanted to practice medicine, the vast majority of patients who could even remotely afford to would go with members of the American Medical Association, every time.

  • Corlyss

    It might be an instructive project to take a look at unions and their collapse in context of the fate of large scale organized crime in this country. I have long believed unions, like the Democratic party, are vectors for organized crime, if not the criminal organizations themselves. I have a vague sense that the two have a common trend line, and since they have been intermingled for over a century, maybe there’s a correlation there worth exploring.

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