It’s Like Rooting for the Lions against the Christians

It’s astonishing that we have all these people out there—all these wildly opinionated, patriotic folks—who, without any prompting, will spontaneously burst into rhapsodic discourse about how much they admire the “checks and balances” written into the U.S. constitution by our genius Founding Fathers, but who, alas, express nothing but contempt for the working man’s best friend: labor unions.

When you try to compare those constitutional checks and balances with the de facto “checks and balances” (in the form of resistance) that labor unions contribute to the economy, these people go ape-shit. They become emotional. It’s like we’re suddenly talking about confiscating their guns. These pilgrims will defend the most gargantuan and predatory corporation before they’ll acknowledge even a modest contribution from a labor union.

Over the years I’ve had these arguments countless times—so many times, in fact, that I’ve broken down the “pro-union catechism” into six, user-friendly components: Resistance, Fair Play, Social Evolution, Consumer Economics, Personal Pride, and the Appeal to General Douglas MacArthur’s Restructuring of Post-World War II Japan.

(1) Resistance: without the ability to resist, minorities are doomed. (2) Fair Play: it shouldn’t be only the powerful who get the goodies. (3) Evolution: workers collectives are a logical point on the social axis. (4) Economics: the more affluent the consumer, the healthier the economy. (5) Pride: don’t act like sheep. (6) Douglas MacArthur (a right-wing Republican) insisted that post-war Japan establish unions. Why? Because he believed that, without unions, management would have too much of an upper-hand.

Oddly, none of these arguments have ever worked (not even the appeal to MacArthur). Indeed, the most generous reply I’ve ever gotten from these hardcases was the acknowledgement that, while unions were helpful once upon a time (presumably, they’re referring to the 1930s), those days are long gone. Unions of today are not only unhelpful, they are downright harmful. I’ve heard people describe unions as “corrupt,” as “poison,” as “job-killers,” as a “cancer on society.”

And they have the arrogance to say these things with a straight face, even with union membership hovering at only 11.3-percent, even with the wreckage of the middle-class visible to all of us, even with the so-called “working poor” growing faster than ever, even with the top 2-percent accumulating wealth at a record pace. Yet these worshippers of “checks and balances” insist that labor unions are not only an anachronism, but a curse.

But when you drop the big question on them, when you ask how workers can be expected to improve themselves, they have no answer. They have no remedy. They sheepishly admit that they have no solution. All they know for certain is that workers collectives are definitely NOT the way to go, and that unions are evil. There’s a name for ignorant bastards like these. They’re called “voters.”

David Macaray is a playwright and author, whose latest book is How to Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows: Weird Adventures in India: Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims When the Peace Corps was New. Everything you ever wanted to know about India but were afraid to ask. He can be reached at: Read other articles by David.