It's all about resistance
- It’s All About Resistance
by David Macaray / April 9th, 2013
It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of
old-fashioned “resistance.” Indeed, without resistance (e.g., pushing
back, taking an aggressive stand, demonstrating that you’re willing to
fight, etc.), things can get out of hand very quickly, whether we’re
talking about international relations, social intercourse, basic
economics, children or adults.
Take the typical school yard bully for example.
The thing that keeps these bullies going is that no one resists them. No one is willing to fight back—either by instantly reporting them to a teacher, or (taking matters boldly into their own hands) by punching
them squarely in the nose. And experience has taught us that when you
appease a bully, two things happen, both of them bad: the bully
continues his dominance, and his bullying tends to become more frequent
On Sunday, April 7, the Los Angeles Times ran a disturbing front-page story on the topic of worker victimization. The article pointed out
that employers now believe (especially since the recession) that they
are firmly in the driver’s seat, that the economy has become such a
lopsided “buyer’s market” that they can now pretty much force their
employees to do anything they wish. After all, who or what is going to
It’s sad to report, but businesses have won. They’ve increased their
production demands, they’ve extended employees’ work hours (after having laid off a number of them), they’ve taken to issuing ultimatums (If you don’t like it here, quit), and they’ve done all this while,
simultaneously, having kept wages relatively stagnant. As for
traditional benefits such as pensions, bonuses, sick leave and paid
vacations, forget about it. Most of those have been abolished.
Clearly, things have shifted dramatically. Companies are now running
roughshod over their employees—not those in upper management, mind you,
and not those who hold computer science degrees from Stanford
University, but the regular folks, those with high school diplomas who
just want to work for a living and are fully cognizant that they have
“jobs” rather than “careers.”
Welcome to the underbelly of technology. Companies electronically
time your potty breaks, they electronically measure your output, they
spy on you with cameras, they force you to attend indoctrination
meetings and film you as you listen, and they send out emails
threatening to fire you if you show up late to work. Things have shifted so dramatically, management now expects to run the table every time
they pick up a pool cue.
Which brings us to the role of labor unions. It’s no accident that
this draconian work environment coincides with the precipitous drop in
union membership. It’s no accident and no coincidence, because the one
thing a labor union brings to the workplace is resistance—resistance in
the form of worker representation and adult supervision. It’s that
school yard dynamic all over again.
A union contract requires a company to follow certain rules. Despite
all their squawking, if management didn’t fully understand the rules and didn’t see the basic wisdom and fairness in them, they wouldn’t have
signed that contract. I’ve personally negotiated five contracts, and
believe me, only a stupid or wildly reckless management team is going to shoot themselves in the foot.
Yes, union jobs offer about 15-percent higher wages and benefits, and yes, union safety programs are infinitely superior to non-union
programs, and these by themselves are tremendous advantages to becoming a union member. But a union also offers something less tangible. A union
contract provides an employee with dignity—with the expectation of
coming to work and being treated with respect. And that is no small
If anyone is able to name another institution that can provide
America’s working class with the built-in dignity and economic
advantages a union can, I’d love to hear it, because it ain’t the
federal government and it ain’t philanthropic organizations. This is all about resistance. Without resistance, workers have no leverage.
Resistance is everything. And without labor unions, the bullies will
continue to win.
David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor), was a former union rep. He can be reached at: dmacaray@.... Read other articles by David.
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