Thursday, October 11, 2012

Irony Strikes

It’s a great time to be a 'have' in America. Even better than normal, I mean.

Despite budget-cuts and a nation-wide dollar shortage, the gold coins falling into their pile continue to accumulate. Meanwhile, those in the pile of the have-nots continue to disappear. It's a fact that America’s income disparity now resembles that of a third-world nation.

Remarkably, this dynamic also applies to union membership, where lavish pensions and recession-defying raises are the norm for haves, while the nots watch a bitter stream of concessions and pay-cuts erode what were once self-sustaining livelihoods.

What does it mean when even our unions—once bastions of hope for America’s labor against the absolute power of corporate ownership—have succumbed to this exclusionary and destructive trend?

I’m confused how this is supposed to revitalize our much-talked about manufacturing base. About how this is supposed to draw the best and the brightest and reverse the brain drain I hear so many industries complaining about.

I’m concerned because I know what serfs are. And what feudalism is. And the degree to which the twentieth-century is increasingly appearing as an anomaly and not a societal model. This resonates with me because I’ve lived it.

As a former sales and service consultant for one of the Baby Bells spun-off in the wake of the anti-trust litigation brought against AT&T, I watched in shock and horror as my union rolled over for the labor-hating victor of a hostile takeover:

Can we fluff your pillow for you, Mr. Nacchio? Freshen your drink? Exactly how far would you like us to bend over, Mr. Nacchio?

There was no fight. There were no negotiations. To my knowledge, not a single attempt was made to bash in Joseph P. Nacchio’s head with a brick. (Which isn’t to infer that I endorse workplace violence.)

Our jobs were radically reconfigured to ensure failure.

I can confirm with absolute certainty that sales goals require sales calls. While statistically conceivable, calls from angry customers who have taken a third day off of work for a technician that never shows do not generate much in the way of commission.

But they do make it very easy to dismiss a floor full of sales reps for non-performance.

So yes. I’m jealous of any union that not only remains functional, but powerful.

And that jealousy turns to something much warmer when it becomes apparent that the only unions remaining powerful are those representing the well-off. I mean, do Kobe Bryant and Albert Pujols really need union-backed protection?

The answer is no. Or rather, hell no.

Beyond the finger-pointing and the politicking and the nostalgia, the fact remains that America was strongest when its middle-class was largest. And in a consumer-based economy, why don’t you want the most money in the pockets of the most people?

Seems like a no-brainer. A win-win.

But what the hell do I know?


  1. Our union movement is pretty strong. My union just won a pay equity case resulting in significant pay increases for community workers.

  2. What the hell is wrong with you people? That's money that could go to the one-percent!

    I don't suppose you even care that some of them are driving last year's BMWs!!!