Sunday, May 22, 2011

Matthew Yglesias on the Power of a Union

Here is a post by Matthew Yglesias on his blog at Think Progress that makes it clear just how a union empowers people:
Harassment Incentives

Penelope Trunk:
These women have nothing to lose when they report men who cross the line sexually. So the maid reported. And then, it turns out, all sorts of women in higher up positions spoke up against Strauss-Kahn. The women wouldn’t report the harassment on their own. They don’t want to suffer retribution. But now there will be no retribution, so it’s safe to come forward.

This is why men are going to focus harassment at the higher ranks of the corporate ladder. These are the women who have to keep their mouths shut if they want to keep climbing the ladder.

But God help the guy who harasses a women with nothing to lose.
On the other hand, Steven Greenhouse reports that various kinds of harassment and assault of hotel maids are extremely common. Is it true, after all, that a maid has “nothing to lose”? Perhaps that would be true if the economy operated at a permanent full-employment state. Even if you did get fired, you could find some other hotel to clean in. But when unemployment’s 9 percent it seems to me a low-wage worker has a huge amount to lose. Unless she’s represented by a strong labor union, which was the case for the maid at the Sofitel in question.
The truth is that Dominique Strauss-Kahn's past sexual assaults were covered up not because the women he assaulted "had something to lose" but because the women he assaulted did not belong to a labor union. Think about this as Republicans continue to assault unions in the US. These political ideologues are destroying an institution that gives the powerless one small bit of power to fight back against the immensely powerful.


thomas said...


I have made this point in many discussions with non union individuals.. When you are non union; you stand alone with no way of knowing if the offer is fair. You walk in alone and blind dealing from a disadvantage with no support or backup. In cases of abuse or unsafe situations, again, you are on your own. Today's economy makes it very scary to face the option of losing your job either by being forced to quit or being fired.

Employers can afford to be picky and turn you down because of a credit rating or a bad reference or even leaving a space blank on an application. When I was hiring, I had to consider anyone who could walk in on his own and some of those had to have help getting there and help with the application.. I would give almost anyone a try and think long before letting anyone go.

Most people, whether moving up in the executive levels or just "lower classes" have very little choice when it comes to putting up with abuse which takes the form of poor pay or unsafe working conditions or harassment. If you have to work for a living; you are basically a slave if you have no union representation.

RYviewpoint said...

Thomas: I fully agree with you.