Unions good, says reader

By Michael Kozak

Editors, the Gauntlet,

Re: “Throw off…” Sept. 9, 1999

I would like to address the claim that workers are “bullied” into joining unions. To begin with, a union must be certified by a majority of workers, all of whom not only have to believe in the union, but also resist intimidation and harassment from bosses, who are afraid of an empowered workplace. God forbid they may have to offer decent wages and conditions of work. Furthermore, a union may only act after a majority vote, meaning even business unions are partially controlled by the workers. The problem with undemocratic unions is not forcing workers to strike, but preventing workers from taking action by not letting the strike vote occur in
the first place–the worst undemocratic unions resemble no union
at all.

On all measures, unionized workers have better wages, benefits, conditions, hours, etc. An individual worker abstaining from a union is not only someone who divides and weakens the autonomous power of workers. Given the benefits one gains from being in a unionized workplace, that person becomes someone who wants to have all the benefits a union confers without the responsibility, dues and participation. If there is an issue with the union, it is the responsibility of the workers to become involved and x it–in the case of business unions the appropriate response may be to organize a rank and file movement to topple the undemocratic bureaucracy.

To offer a few parallel examples, let us recall the ire nalogous case of wanting the benefits without having to pay the cost, which Western Canada in particular reacted to rather strongly. On a similar note, how many people become outraged that citizens born in Canada are forced into citizenship–they didn’t choose it, they were just born! Or the worker who wants the rights of employment (wages), but not the responsibility (work)–would you raise a cry if they were fired?

“Right to work” arguments do not protect workers. Rather, they are a way that working people can be divided. Given that the capacity of workers to defend their rights depends upon their unity, this division is a way that workers can be intimidated and abused more easily. The language of choice is used to mask the reality of these arguments and in doing so, strips away what little power individual workers may have in front of the boss.