I have written before about Labor Day, here and here in this webspace, and as the observance comes around once again, I find myself in much less secure a position to write anything than in previous years. It’s my own fault, really; I shifted jobs without thinking things through, and I was hindered in the latter by not having joined the union. But that’s not why I’m returning to the topic now.
Recently, approval of unions reached some 71% of those polled, per Gallup. It’s not an unequivocal thing, as the report makes clear, but it is of some note–and some importance. My own experience as a union man–less presently than previously, when I was in a heavily unionized and union-integrated workplace and a member of UAW Local 2110–bears out the good of unions. Yes, it was the case that some members of the union were skating by, trusting in their collective contracts to cover their own inadequacies and stagnation. And it was the case that the specifics of the contract did not do as much to encourage innovation and development as could or should have been the case. But it was also the case that demonstrated expertise was explicitly and meaningfully rewarded; I got a 10% hourly raise upon completing my doctorate, for one thing, and guaranteed cost-of-living increases. I also had fully covered medical, dental, and vision, and I had access to retirement plans. (I did not invest in them, which worked out for the best, in the event, but that’s a different matter.) And it wasn’t just me; it was all of the working folk at the school, from department- and program-chair faculty through teaching staff and administrative support to the janitors and maintenance technicians.
I recognize that unionization is not something that everybody wants for themselves. I also recognize that there are some occupations where it ought not to happen–even some where it has. I also certainly understand why those who are driven to find profit–not earn, because “earn” does not really apply with them–oppose unionization. For me, though, it was a good and it is a good, and I delight in the increasing solidarity to be seen.