It really wasn’t all that long ago that mining companies would hire unsuspecting immigrants, placing them in company towns and paying them in company scrip. It took strikes and violence to expose the greed of companies.
Nevermind that unions eventually became too powerful and corrupt. They – along with the realization that Marx *would* be right unless they changed ways – forced capitalism to alter its course somewhat.
I’m reminded of that when I hear a co-worker tick off the places that unions don’t belong. “Hospitals, police, fire, sanitation, schools, power, heat” he says, listing the most vital needs of a society. But I have to disagree, passionately. The very argument that they are vital is the reason *why* they should be allowed to be unionized.
Take nurses, for example. It is far too easy to find examples of overworked nurses, responsible for so many patients that it is infeasible for anyone to competently finish their job. They are held to an impossible standard, and so find themselves negatively reviewed for doing the best that anyone could do.
Why shouldn’t teachers be paid more? Or police officers, or firemen?
If they are so important that there can be no interruption of services, then perhaps they should be paid more, have more resources, or have better hours.
Instead, by even advancing the *idea* that they should be forced to work for lower wages and benefits, in worse conditions than they could bargain for collectively, we are condoning a real kind of wage-slavery. If we really value these jobs, these services, these *people* then it follows that they should see similar benefits in wages. That they aren’t demonstrates the real values of our society.