Tokyo Damage Report

yet another lacuna in the discourse: unions

I don’t know about your country, but in America, it’s impossible to have a rational discussion about unions. Conservatives hate them all, and lefties fall into one of two types: a) academics who like unions in theory because they “stick it to corporations” (but have no real-world experience dealing with unions’ bullshit), and b) union members who have no incentive to snitch on union corruption.

America is so dummin’! On the left, you can find reports decrying mis-treatment of  military or corporate whistle-blowers. And, while there’s not a lot of exposure of corporate or government wrongdoing, you can find it if you look.  Unions don’t have a tenth of the money or political clout of giant military-industrial corps, AND YET you CAN’T find whistle-blowing on THEM. Fucking weird, man.

You can’t find anyone who says, “OK, this industry’s union is pretty good, but that union over there is a bunch of   – as Zappa said – flakesssssssssssssss.”

Union corruption isn’t just mob involvement. There’s other kinds:

You work in an office and need to fix a jam in a printer (or plug in a new computer). But you’re not allowed to do it yourself, you have to call the official union Maintainance Guy. Not only that but you have to fill out a request form in triplicate, and then wait 3 hours for the Maintanance Guy to show up and plug in your PC or fix your paper jam and charge you $20 for it. If you do it yourself for free in 3 seconds, the whole union goes on strike. Things like that are bad for efficiency.

Like the guy that gets paid $100,000 to sit in the boiler room and make sure the boiler don’t explode. Like probably he checks it 2 times a day and spends the rest of the time doing ebay to make even more money.

Or, some unions are cool to new members, but other unions are assholes about seniority: giving all the perks to old timers even if the old-timers are total burn-outs or fart-knockers, and screwing new guys/gals who bring a lot more energy and new ideas to the job. Again, the degree of welcome extended to newcomers is vastly different from union to union, but you’d never know it by listening to the “unions are all good”/ “Unions are all bad” pundits.


The degree to which union bosses represent their rank-and-file or just represent themselves. AKA are the union officials respected by the workers? AKA The degree to which bosses are willing to fight the employers.  Hmm, maybe that should be two different categories?  I mean you could go by a popularity contest: have the union members vote on how much they liked union bosses, but probably the most corrupt unions would wind up with the most popular rankings!


 some unions go out of their way to fuck with non-unionized labor all “We don’t WANT  more workers in our unions because they’ll depress wages. Get the fuck out of here!”, and other unions try to RECRUIT the non-unionized labor and HELP them.



  A fucking  graph! A line, a continuum of all the major unions by industry, from most corrupt to most sincerely trying to help the rank-and-file.

This would mean taking all the metrics I detailed above (mob involvement,  standing up to management,  wasting efficiency, wasting money, seniority issues, and non-union labor outreach) and making some kind of math equation that would add them all up and generate a single number that would place them somewhere on the line.

Since all these things are deliberately secret and off-the-books,  any attempt at a ranking them would, of course, involve some guessing, un-named sources, and arbitrary opinions about how to weight the various variables of the equation. But so what?  respectable newspapers and NGOs use these kind of “best guess” rankings all the time!  From things like  GNP to national corruption index, state transparency index, quality of life rankings, etc. . .  there’s nothing new about “best guess” rankings. The only new thing would be to get one for unions.

Unfortunately,  since this doesn’t suit the interests of the American right OR the American left, it will never happen.

In other countries, is there something like this?



3 Comments so far

  1. Eric Vinyl April 22nd, 2012 1:18 am

    I’m sure there are plenty more among radicals, but Michael Moore, at least, is one person who’s been adamant about, while defending unions in one breath and pointing out how they basically made the middle-class life he enjoyed growing up possible, decrying crappy, ineffectual, corrupt unions in bed with management, encouraging the rank and file if you have a crappy union throw the bastards out, etc.

    P.S. Fuck “efficiency.”

  2. dood April 22nd, 2012 4:45 am

    You're back to US, Schultz? Joined a union? Well, seems nobody has big issues with unions in Europe (except, Greece, Italy, you name it…). As far as I can say for Germany, most unions are quite reasonable, like accepting wage cuts if the economy is going down and later raising demands again to get a good share of company profits for the employees. There has been random corruption here too, but these guys are still serving their time in jail. Kind'a hard to believe people in US have problems with unions. Hard to believe there are unions left at all in the US after Reagan/Bush years… 

  3. moof April 23rd, 2012 1:46 am

    My sister's a school librarian; she says that one of the most useful functions of the teachers' union is that it keeps parents from being able to pressure teachers as much into rampant stupidity as far as the kids are involved, and lets the teachers do their jobs.

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