Had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine last night, via text. I was out and about, on my way to catch the mid-season premier of Battlestar Galactica’s final season. As I waited for a bus transfer, I spotted a small group of guys wearing clothing that identified them as employees of the same company as my friend. So I shot her a text, just as a tease. This was around 8 PM, not work hours, so such a gathering seemed odd to me.
She replied back and asked if it looked like they were unionizing.
I had caught my bus by this point so I couldn’t examine the group any further. I replied back and reminded her that I’m pro-union, just like I’m pro-democracy (which, to me, are one and the same).
She responded that she’s anti-union but pro-democracy.
I sensed that this conversation was getting too big for SMS, with its 160-character limit. But I wanted to challenge my friend, who is intelligent and motivated but perhaps had never considered the connection between representative government and representative unions. They’re one and the same.
So I just told her, as an open-ended offer, “I welcome your counter evidence!” Implying that there will be a future conversation on this topic (I hope that’s what I implied).
She responded “No need 2 sell what ur not buying.” Sounds like an admission of defeat to me. But, seriously, I’m fascinated to learn what evidence would allow one to be in favor of people voting for their leaders in one sphere of life, and be actively against it in another area of life. I just don’t see it.
Uh, workplaces without unions are dictatorships. Some may have benevolent dictators running them, but not all. That’s a simple fact. Unions are the only democratic institution in the workplace.
Of course, my friend is in management at the company I will not name to protect this organizing effort. I can understand why someone would see a union as perhaps threatening their privileged position. But perhaps she never made the connection between the idea that the people are justified and enabled to elect their political leaders in a democracy, and the idea that employees can use their organizing powers in the workplace to effect positive changes for themselves and to the benefit of the company.
Let me clearly state that I’m not blind to the flaws in actual, functioning unions – just as I am not blind to the flaws in our current, damaged but still functioning, democracy. That’s a point for another day and another post. But the solution is the same in each case: more participation and involvement from people, and better leadership, will resolve those problems. It’s not a coincidence that low turnouts in elections favors anti-democracy Republicans, and more voters than have ever voted before were required to elect pro-people Democratic President(-elect, until Tuesday) Barack Obama. Obama is not perfect and I will not always agree with him, but our country functions better when I, and all of you, too, join in the conversation and make your voices heard.
To that end, it is imperative that the Employee Free Choice Act be passed into law. I intend to write more on the EFCA in the future, and on this topic in general. The law, in its current form, will make organizing unions easier, and will take power away from the employer (the current dictators and royalty) and put it in the hands of the employees.
And bring more democracy to the workplace, where it belongs.