Dog and man from Yale

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday June 21, 2012 10:26 AM

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, 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?

Comments (16)

Al Schumann:

I have my doubts about the difficulty of firing goldbrickers. The greatest entrenchment of incompetence and passive aggression comes from the shit conditions of the jobs themselves: there are just not that many people willing to take them. Those who are willing to take them have to clear hurdles that are wildly unreasonable, such as those fatuous personality tests, drug screening, probationary denial of already meager benefits, etc. The wages are derisive. The health effects are often nasty. Once they're in and punching the clock—if they show up on time and don't do anything to attract management's disapproving attention—they're going to become fixtures.


Mad dog Mike Yates against priggish dweeb Corey Robin? The former from an Allegheny coaltown, the other from, um, Chappaqua? Nolo contendre.


I'm certainly more inclined to see it Al's way than not. I've had colleagues so worse-than-useless that I would have gotten rid of them in a nanosecond, if it had been up to me, but perhaps this reflects badly on my character. And surely Under Socialism(tm) workers would be able to vote a colleague off the island; but probably it's better under current conditions to insist on solidarity, even with the least satisfactory of our brethren.


The pro-Henwood commenter does point to a very real and familiar circustance, though: Speaking generally, that harder working employees resent their less "motivated"/"slacker"/"lazier" colleagues, and think they should be paid more than them. And actually feel little solidarty at all, save for instances of extreme managerial abuse. I've observed this on many rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

MJS, you are onto something here:

"though I'm a completely pro-union guy, I never felt that my union did a blessed thing for me"

This speaks volumes about our politics, parties, unions, and such. And volumes have also been written...

It sounds like what's needed is a partnership between the union and management. Give the union a say (self-policing) in who gets fired, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity providing a win-win situation. The more productive can then soar like eagles, capturing the fruits of their labor. Wait, am I experiencing an 80's flashback?


I am duly rebuked. Never mind.

Gluelicker, so I am a mad dog am I? Your comment made my day.

MJS, my father was in a union that actually won higher wages and benefits, though the times were right for this. His work buddies were a mixed lot. Some were slackers and some overtime hogs. My dad would sometimes comment negatively on both types. But overall, solidarity ruled (and everyone stole company property. Our house was full of those little tools you cut plates of glass with). Most of the workers didn't want to see anyone fired, because they knew that it could be them next and a worker fired had a family too. But those were different times. You could not get higher pay at someone else's expense, and the union had its own time study engineer to challenge the company when it tried to speed things up.

It is almost always better to overlook our coworkers' shortcomings. First, this makes it more likely they will overlook our own. Second, it's best not to play into our boss's hands. Third, it makes it harder for the super achievers to set the pace.


i suggest we attack head on
two notions

that bunging out the slackers
will increase your pay packet

and that we employees oughta get
into the fellow jobbler
firing squad business

dougwood is an ignorant
porcine snot
when it comes to unions
he might as well be chowderhead cohen

"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."

total horse apples

like ten miles high carpet bombing

"not just its members ?"

that 's pretty much what unions are about

at least asfar as average rank and file members see it
these days

fathers words are indeed typical all too typical
member words

"...I've had union job... I never felt that my union did a blessed thing for me"

and so the douger wants social movement unionism

well right now that amounts to organizing
the unorganize-able

trying to
add more unsatisfied dues payers

the problem today is not the lack of social unionism
its the lack of union membership

to avoid chasing my own tail anymore then usual
i'll stipulate

union staff and leadership
are really hurt by the automatic dues system

hell even the churches have to "earn their keep"

and on the whole
the present crop of pie cards
only do one thing worse
then servicing their members

and that's organize new ones

but believe this good people
the orging failures
are for lack of trying
or lack of resources even
not all the time

its morelike
ummh in my estimation

like they haven't got a fuckin clue
how to do it anyome

what worked ..more or less in 1955

shit that won't turn a trick now

and what worked in 1975 ...

please ...l by then
outside the pub sec
and the quasi pub sec

nothing worked already

get this straight and soak in the broad implications
unions have been under de facto bi partisan attack

from the days of jimmy cater

and on top of all that
the leadership generation back then
was not much more
then a pack of used up
blow hard
kold war bowling pins

its been a long road to here
from carter's cardigan back stab
and its been
down hill nearly all the way
the unions need completely new swat teams
withcompletely new weaponand tactics
speaking of weapons and tactics

our glaborous glamor pink
henny rickles
has a few alternatives in mind
to recall fiascos
he must have
our why would he blow off like that
about the union chieftans

the swine ..why they're not acting
" consistently and convincingly
in the interest of the broad working class "

just what has he in his head?

i don't read his list piss much so i dunno

tell me doug fans
just what he would suggest
as the alternative set of moves ?

to be less then fully fair

i can think of a few notions as alternatives myself

and back there at ground zero day or two after scoty's t vindication
the mad gog himself
had a few concepts
he pinned up here too
i think
but not a general blast at unionism today

i'll add this

simply crying
" stay the fuck away from the Democrats"

is as useless as sucking the tits
of a billie goat

and as far as notions go
big wide open notions
fine bring em on

but please mates
don't give me that "general strike " crap

unless you organized one yourself

as to the pie cards that led the charge
of the lite brigade there in madison

hell these are pub sec unionists
for fuck sake !

the electeds are their employers !!!

imagine if you could vote out
your boss

okay okay
i think too little time pre action
got spent pondering
this horrendous formalism
they have out there in fort cheeseburg USA

if to throw out a bum
you have to elect another bum...

that was not a recall
brothers and sisters
that was a god damn redue
a mulligan for last time's loser
not a pig roasting for
the stinkng putrid winner

imagine after all that lovely protracted war dancin'
the citizens of wisconsin
got to choose between
the exact same pair
of cock sucking animatronic dough brained
donor whores
as last time !!!

i just threw a glass of ice water in my face


so hey fans
think about it

these are experienced union people
that pulled this utterly unsuccessful back flip
and they're prolly nine out of ten
been heading this outfits
now for years now
cranking this same set of organ grinders
taking the same dues and most likely wondering
in bad moments
when days like these would come

u know
we are all prisoners of our experience
as bill clinton likes to say

there's more then enough blame
one can hurl directly
at the orthrian system

why bother these old sugar bears anyway
unless your chowderhead cohen
with an eli echo in your head
and glad to be wearing
a cheap brooklyn accounts dress shirt

to me i just feel bad

those poor union suckers....

they just took
the standard party hose job
right up the ass

and hell that's
after they organized
in snowy madison
circa winter '11
possibly the greatest
most persistent
show of class boisterousness
since john l lewis lost his eyebrows
in the great peabody mine rescue of 1957


To further complicate, you won’t find a parallel feline cat picture – as, historically, unions where women predominate as members, have always been Sweetheart [let me fuck you, every which way unto tomorrow] Unions run by males - despite the fact that many females, myself included, wholeheartedly believe in the necessity of the ideology of “Unions.”

Most Paterland “US” americans, are not aware that the US Code & Regulations [The Law], regarding employees, reads exactly as if employess are worthless slaves, who provide nothing; a necessity of “Capitalism” (both in its: pure, never practiced form; and in its practiced form).


(Of course though, the “Singularity” will do away with that pesky necessity for felines (let alone ‘Unions’) along with billions of human males, ‘white’ ones included! Musical Stools[Feces]! ...

Some truly nasty shit going on.)

Jobs are stupid. Work is stupid. The whole thing is fucked up from the get go, unions just want a piece of the consumption pie that threatens to eat the whole planet with growth, more growth and after that even more growth. 7 billion people today, 9 billion in a few years, hey let's eat the whole fucking planet.

That said, I'd rather some slackabouts in the union get more of whatever pie there is left than the fucking rich assholes who suck off their labor.

But you know that's not gonna happen. The old union movement is based upon an entire set of flawed assumptions about how things work. Better to just let it go.

Al Schumann:
The limitations of electoral politics are obvious, but the assumption that electoral strategies per se are always wrong is hard to fathom.

That's Lafer. A better version might read:

The practice of putting the cart before the horse has obvious limitations, but the assumption that it's always wrong is hard to fathom.


you naughty gloomy anti-glutton

the implicit corporatte conjecture
that homo gorge-entis
shall not perish from this earth

faces certain natural limits no doubt

but heck
ya gotta throw yourself into the struggle

its like white water
it'll get u banging along down stream
in the chosen direction one hopes
and in less then a second

well that's a lie

the struggle has every dynamic property
known to bodies of water

right now we seem in a slowly turning
whirl pool


a necessity of “Capitalism”

i like that line


you naughty gloomy anti-glutton"

Hah, I suppose I am. And hey, don't get me wrong, while we're all traveling along in this hand basket headed toward a very warm place I fully support popular mass movements that attempt to claw back from the ruling class elites whatever little bits and pieces they can get. Unions, sure!!! All for 'em. But sometimes I peek over the edge of the basket and see where we're headed and it reminds me that jobs, work, production, consumption, capitalism and all that crap are really just inane. Stupid.


Were all gonna die, many of us will deserve it and any meaning or value assigned to the shit that happened before that is just some stupid thing some guy imagined.

But hey, we're just some guy too, yeah? Why ain't some guy's imagining good enough?
So throw that brick!

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