When I hear the word 'realistic', I go for my Browning.
Quite a dogfight over at The Nation between two old Elis: Doug Henwood and one Gordon Lafer, over the autopsy results from the Wisconsin recall. Doug (as mentioned here before, with approval) argues that it was a disaster to channel the Wisconsin uprising into a futile electoral campaign for a Democrat, and lays the blame squarely at the feet of the collaborationist American labor unions. Lafer -- who is apparently both a labor bureaucrat and an academic one -- says Doug is an unrealistic ivory-tower dreamer who doesn't know the first thing about life in the trenches (where, one might add, trench mouth is a serious risk).
The debate continues at coreyrobin.com, where many of the comments are quite interesting (thanks Michael Y for the tip), and Corey Robin himself appears, pleasantly, to great disadvantage: a querulous, preening, self-important popinjay.
Among other things, Doug writes:
If it’s ever to turn things around, organized labor has to act consistently and convincingly in the interest of the broad working class and not just its members.I kinda wonder about this one. Seems to me that the unions we actually have don't even act in the interest of their members -- note especially the iniquitous two-tier contracts that unions have been signing for decades now -- and would be more popular if they did. At various times in my own life I've had union jobs, and though I'm a completely pro-union guy, I never felt that my union did a blessed thing for me; in fact the only contact I ever had with it was the dues deduction on my pay stub. I certainly don't begrudge the dues but one would like to feel that one was getting something for it.
Another point: a pro-Henwood commenter at the Corey Robin site writes:
My mother-in-law is a diet tech at a state run facility in WI. She makes $13 and change an hour. She voted against Walker, twice now, but she is not at all happy with her union. She gets shit wages and her union protects people who are worthless employees – there is no self policing within the union and workers who do nothing are nearly impossible to fire, which is surely a factor in keeping wages down for workers like my mother-in-law.... Now, I know any good liberal can postulate theories as to why such union orientations might come about, but to the extent that you embrace them you distance yourselves from actual working class persons who give a damn about the work that they do, which is to say, the majority of them.I too have heard this line of argument from many, many blue-collar folks, in unions and not. Dunno quite what to think about it. In general I'm in favor of goldbricking and working no harder than you have to, and if unions are a barrier against corporate Stakhanovism, that's a benign function. But on the other hand there are a lot of people who take some pride in doing a competent and conscientious job, and feel that idlers and incompetents are making their own lives unnecessarily difficult. Maybe unions need some sort of mechanism whereby a shop-floor initative could expel a particularly disliked co-worker?