Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Union Busters ‘R Us

Martinlady over at The FAA Follies has been doing a bit of reading of her own. She’s writing a series on the FAA, following a path detailed in a book she read.

Confessions of a Union Buster by Martin Jay Levitt with Terry Conrow

Part one of her series is here.

Part two is here.

For those out there that might not know that there is a whole industry dedicated to busting unions and preventing unions from being formed in the first place -- you might want to start at Wikipedia for some background. If you read all the way to the notes, you’ll notice that Confessions of a Union Buster is cited numerous times.

Because this subject is near and dear to my heart, I could carry on all day. But I’ll limit myself to one story out of the many that come to mind. Conservative dogma cites Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” as the holy scripture in the church of the free market. There is no doubt that Adam Smith’s book The Wealth of Nations is an important work. One day, I might even read it. But I had heard it cited so many times I decided to browse through it for myself. (Have I mentioned how much I love the internet ?)

The Wealth of Nations
Book One
Chapter VIII
Of the Wages of Labour

“We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things, which nobody ever hears of. Masters, too, sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of execution, and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do, without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people.”

Adam Smith

“...they are never heard of by other people.“ Most of our fellow citizens have never heard that the air traffic controllers are working under imposed work rules. Of those that have, most don’t know that the FAA hired a professional union buster -- Joe Miniace -- to handle negotiations with the controllers. Just in case that didn’t grab you, let me spell it out. Your tax dollars paid for a professional union buster.

I hope that doesn’t make any of my readers feel like I think they’re dense. In case it did, let me make it up to you. Piece together the puzzle.

1) FDR’s election in ‘33
2) The Uprising of ‘34
3) The foundation of The Family in ‘35
4) The Taft-Hartley Act in 1947
5) The PATCO strike in 1981

Keep plugging in the pieces of the puzzle and see if you can figure out how we got here.

The next time you read phrases like “declining wages” or “the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression” or “the greatest concentration of wealth since the 1920s”...you’ll have an idea of how we got here, who brought us and why I’m reading books like American Theocracy, Titan and FDR. And yes (while I’m looking up links), Jeff Sharlet’s The Family is already on my wish list.

Don Brown
May 27, 2008

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