5 Tons of Flax

What the deuce!

Union

Posted by Jon on 24 May, 2007

So my mom’s employer (which shall remain nameless for the moment) is a “non-profit” hospital. She’s a RN. Over my lifetime, the treatment of the nurses at the hospital has gone from OK to poor to its current state of Dickensian.

Some nurses are trying to form a union, but progress has been slow, both due to pretty obvious management intimidation, appeasement and the union rep’s apparent incompetence/apathy. Of course, I’m only going off of bits and pieces that I hear at home. It’s possible that management may be rays of sunshine, or the union reps strategists of Corleone caliber who are biding their time until the optimum moment for an operatic montage of unionizing fury.

Union organizing is a field I’m increasingly thinking of trying. It would seem to be a useful way to get some politically-oriented field skills and contacts; more importantly, to do a little bit of good. The decline of unions in this country is understandable (though not perfectly understood from what little I’ve read of the literature on the subject; as a politically controversial issue there are a lot of politically convenient theories to choose from to suit your preferences). Nonetheless, I think the middle class is just beginning the slow and painful process of waking up to the fact that their prosperity is disappearing, and a major contributive factor is that the management-union-New Deal style government consensus that characterized the 1950s-1970s has long since collapsed.

The basic issue underlying my general support of unions, despite the (somewhat) probable truth that in certain cases they can function as a force for the status quo against necessary change, and the historical corruption that is associated with certain unions, is that employment relations are (in addition to gender, race, age, etc.) fundamentally power structures. I’ve given up dreaming of a lack of power structures in life; moreover, what little I’ve read of Nietzsche and related types of thinkers suggests that power and life are a unified concept. The question is, to what ends will power be directed, who will hold it, and through what means will it be employed. These are questions that strike to the heart of citizenship, the state, economics, history, etc., and predicting future manifestations of such. The one thing that seems obvious is that there are many kinds of power, and employers can hold one of the most central in most people’s lives – the ability to eat, essentially. I’ll probably be setting down some of my more elaborated thoughts on this from time to time.

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