Union Blues
September 23, 2018 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for voices on the left that are critical of unions in general, or certain aspects of the union movement. Any recommendations, MeFites?

Particularly interested in contemporary U.S. politics, but international perspectives or comparisons are welcome, as well. I would prefer to not get super deep into history but historical views are of course welcome as far as they add to the contemporary discussion.
posted by The Toad to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Certain aspects? Try Labor Notes. "Since 1979, Labor Notes has been the voice of union activists who want to put the movement back in the labor movement." From November 2017: "Relieving Racial Resentment in Our Unions." Archives.

(Co-founder Kim Moody on Labor Notes in 2016, at Jacobin: The Rank and File's Paper of Record.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:56 PM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Daniel DiSalvo is a somewhat interesting, in that he is himself a union member who argues against public agency unions. His book "Government Against Itself" is surprisingly easy to read. As an aside, he's an excellent public speaker.
posted by saeculorum at 7:34 PM on September 23, 2018

Daniel DiSalvo is hardly a voice on the left as the OP requested. As your link points out, he is a Senior Fellow at the right-wing Manhattan Institute funded by the Koch brothers, along with other right-wing billionaires. His big thing is the elimination of public sector unions and applauded the recent Supreme Court decision overturning 40 years of precedent regarding union agency fees.
posted by JackFlash at 8:24 PM on September 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

If it's specifically concerns about US trade unions, AFL-CIO etc, anything IWW will almost by default be critical on some level of trade unions. As much as many IWW folks are dual-carders and organise within their trade unions as well, as part of an oppositional union structure that has fought with trade unions many times, there's criticisms that are nonetheless very much coming from a left position.

Even more generally, socialist groups often have criticisms of unions. Particularly from a critical support angle, supporting the goals but criticising the methods. Here there is regular criticism of the trade unions, which are variously cowardly, managerial, corrupt and ineffective, if nonetheless still valuable and one of the few institutions agitating for change.

Also, if you have any level of access to academic works, an awful lot of anti-imperialist, decolonial, feminist and anti-racist scholars have serious things to say about unions and how they've operated, a dozen times over for historically. Any left academic piece will provide critical perspectives. Look for articles called things like "POC perspectives on labour organisation", "intersectional history of working-class resistance", "women and unions" etc.i don't have access to any particular work right now to suggest but very few competent academics will consider the history of labour organisation without analysing the flaws of union movements.

The trick is separating the critics who hate unions from those who dislike certain unions or methods. It's usually apparent from what people are saying and particularly their recommendations for change. Do they want to abolish or disable unions, or are they seeking more effective paths to working class power?
posted by AnhydrousLove at 7:24 AM on September 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yep, the left isn’t totally pro-union. Here’s an article outlining some problems with them from a socialist movement perspective.

Plus, if the left wins, what need is there for a union - the workers own the means of production!
posted by congen at 8:37 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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