Rightwing Populists’ Hatred of Unions

James Schipper seems to buy into some of the rightwing populists’ arguments against public employee unions:

The latest recession in the US has nothing to do with wages, but the budgetary problems of many states may in part be explained by the high wages which some public sector employees enjoy. Suppose that payroll is 60% of the budget of a state and that unions in that state have pushed wages 25% above market level, then state expenditures are 15% higher than they would be without the unions.

It should not be forgotten that the government is a monopolist. Consequently, it can’t play by the same rules as private companies. If unions demand very high wages of a company, the company may go bankrupt. If government unions demand higher wages, the government can raise taxes or else it has to cut services. In either case, the general public has to be pay a price.

In countries like the US and Canada, less than 25% of the labor force is unionized. In such a situation, unions can’t do much for the majority of workers.

The best way to increase wages in a country is to increase the skills level of the labor force, to restrict immigration and to keep aggregate demand high through the appropriate fiscal and monetary policies.

First of all, this discussion centered from Republicans’ opposition to Obama funding money to give the states so they can rehire some of the teachers they laid off. It had nothing to do with the wages of public employees.

The problem with your argument is that I’m not aware of a lot of public employees who make too much money. The Right doesn’t just hate public employee unions, they hate all unions.

That goes for Rightwing Populists too. Rightwing populists in the US are petit bourgeois, often small business owners, clerks, managers, etc. They feel that they are being attacked by the Rich and the Poor. A dual pincher destroying the middle class. They also hate unionized working class workers for their good wages and benefits. The unionized working class is also screwing the middle class rightwing populists.

None of this makes any sense, but this is what they believe.

Rightwing populists are furious that public employees continue to get COLA raises every year to adjust for inflation when their wages are flat. Public employees in general are paid fairly for their work. In the private sector, similar jobs are often poorly paid, such as teachers. Private school teachers are treated horribly and paid worse.

It’s not a progressive position to line up with abused workers in the private sector against unionized workers and public employees who are paid fairly and get good benefits. That’s just sour grapes bullshit.

Also, the pubic employee unions are some of the last major unions left in the US. This is why the Right hates them so much. And the teachers unions are also some of the strongest unions left in America. This is why the Right hates them. The stupid Charter school movement is a rightwing plot to destroy the teachers unions because charter schools are nonunion.

Is it progressive to state that unionized workforces destroy workplaces and that non-unionized workforces produce functioning workplaces? Of course not. But this is the Charter School argument, and the whole political spectrum, left to right, buys it.

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16 thoughts on “Rightwing Populists’ Hatred of Unions”

  1. Marxists claim that the petit bourgeois are the mass base for fascism. Are you saying that right-wing populists, because they also tend to be petit bourgeois, are fascists in disguise?

    1. You’re a smart guy! The petit bourgeois is indeed the mass base of fascism in all of its varieties, including rightwing fascist-like movements in the Philippines, India, Latin America, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

      However, in Europe, Japan, Singapore, the Arab World and Africa the petit bourgeois support socialism in one form or another.

      It has to do with the class nature of society.

      I don’t like to throw names around but yes, rightwing populism often has fascist overtones at the very least. Although any fascist movement in the US would look very strange I think. It would look something like the Tea Parties!

      1. I don’t think Tea Party idiots can be accurately tagged as fascists, because they tend to support libertardian economics. Fascists, on the other hand, tend to support centralized, authoritarian state capitalism of some form or another, also known as corporatism. Thank you for your compliment.

  2. It is far from tragic that union wages have a positive effect on the wages of other workers. I never made the big blue collar bucks, but the wages paid to those lucky enough to be in good unions did have a positive effect on the wages of other workers like me. This is often forgotten. It is not a solution to simply have everyone making shit wages.

    Without union organizing, companies will pay slave wages as soon as they can get away with it. This is where we’re headed now. No matter how corrupt some unions like SEIU are, American workers are even worse off without them. We need democratic union reform, not abolishing the unions.

    For example, Dick Dauch, the CEO of American Axle in Detroit, bought out the remaining union line workers there and outsourced their jobs to countries like Mexico and Ireland. He is waiting for the US economy to turn around, at which time he plans to rehire workers at the plant for $8 – $9 an hour sans benefits. Mexification, here we come. Getting rid of unions will do nothing to help the average American worker.

    Wages are never low enough for the idle investor class. I’ve read commenters on Mish Shedlock’s blog bitching that firefighters should make minimum wage! They think they have some inherent right to make a comfortable living on other peoples’ labor, but people who risk their lives every day should work for nothing.

    It happens over and over again, the right wing are never satisfied and always overplay their hand. I don’t believe this is going to bring the long-awaited revolution, though. Considering how atomized, ill-educated and heavily armed the American population is, the result is probably going to be random people losing it in ugly and violent ways. “People who have nothing to lose, lose it.”

    I think the Tea Partiers will eventually get what they say they want, but they’re not going to like it at all.

    1. This is a fantastic comment!

      We are not in any kind of a revolutionary situation in the US. We are not even in a situation where we can advance socialism at all in even the tiniest ways as in social democracy, though there have been some positive moves – stimulus, credit card bill, financial reform, state buyouts of big car firms, finance capital forced to pay back federal loans, health care reform.

      But now it looks like we are headed for a really shitty rightwing backlash in the next election. Unbelievably, one half of all voters are going to vote for a Republican, due to the economy. The Republicans caused this crisis and have done their best to keep it going. They have no plan to get us out of this economic mess and all of their plans will only make everything worse. But voters are so stupid that they can’t figure this out.

      The only revolution that will come out of this Depression will be Tea Party stuff, extreme rightwing Libertardian rightwing populism bullshit. That’s it. That’s what the Revolution will look like. A rightwing Tea Party pseudo-fascist revolution. It won’t make anything better. The Tea Party solution to the economic mess is to pay firefighters minimum wage. Shitheads!

  3. Dear Robert
    To be frank, I’m not that well-informed about wages of state employees in the US. There are 50 states, so there should be considerable variety between them. Some of the figures that I have seen from California and New York didn’t exactly suggest that state employees in those states are living in misery.
    In my Canadian city, we had a bus strike not so long ago. The vast majority of riders were hostile to the strikers. Their position was that bus drivers were already making way more than most riders — absolutely true! — so why should they have sympathy for them.
    I agree with you that it was an excellent idea to give stimulus money to the states. They would spend it right away and thereby increase aggregate demand. The best thing to do in a severe recession is to give money to lower levels of government and to citizens who are likely to spend it, such as low-income seniors and couples with children and modest incomes.
    The basic rule about unions in North America seems to be that they help the best-off workers the most. Very few people who work in fast-food restaurants and in retail are unionized, and you know that they aren’t making a bundle.
    More important than strong unions is a worker-friendly government, such as the one provided by social-democratic parties in Europe.

    Cheers. James

  4. Dear Robert
    The natural enemies of workers in high-wage countries are workers in low-wage countries. As long as there is free trade between high-wage and low-wage countries and as long as capitalists are free to invest abroad, unions won’t be able to much in the tradable sector. Every friend of the working-class in rich countries has to oppose globalization.
    The left in this regard is really useless because their basic outlook has traditionally been internationalist. That’s why I always say that socialism has to be national. Solidarity should stop at the border.
    Capitalism should be renationalized, which means an end of immigration and of foreign investment.

    Cheers. James

    1. I actually agree with this comment! Excellent. Of course it’s true. Internationalism is insane in a capitalist country and in a capitalist world. In this capitalist world, the Left is staunchly internationalist. That boils down to Open Borders for the wealthy West and a flow of low wage labor there from the Third World, devastating Western wages.

      Internationalism makes sense in the socialist world, sure, but not in the capitalist world. In the capitalist world, internationalism is madness and only serves the interests of the worst capitalists and harms the workers.

      1. In this capitalist world, the Left is staunchly internationalist.

        Great point! Talk about putting the cart in front of the horse. How do you advance the global working class by eviscerating the only part of it that is making a livable wage?

        1. Yes and no. The working class is a global class, but huge inequalities between nations mean that practically wage slaves at Foxconn in Shenzhen and Walmart workers in Chicago have little in common. Fuck open borders. It makes no sense. In open borders utopia American wage slaves can go and work for cents in Shenzhen…wey hey!

  5. I don’t nesesarily agree. mainstream conservatives are corporate owned such as fox news pundits but many paleocons like Buchanan are pro labor and talked about the need to work with labor unions to keep jobs from going overseas.

    1. Wow, this is news to me. I’m not questioning what you said, but I’ve never heard Buchanan say anything positive about labor unions. I’d love to see an example of what must be a fairly new leaf for him.

      1. I remember reading it in one of his articles were he talked about how the conservatives need to win back the working class by supporting pro-labor instead of corporate globalist economics. Also there is a vast difference btw public and labor unions.

    2. I read a recent column by him and I was disappointed. He took the side of the Repubilicans opposing the $26 billion to rehire laid-off teachers. The states went broke through their excessive spending, says Buchanan (not true) and no one should bail out the Prodigal Ones. Furthermore, he slammed away at the teachers’ unions like the Republican he’s always been.

      I worked for 6 years as a teacher. When you’re a teacher, you *want* to be in a union. Anyone working at any job anywhere for a wage or salary really ought to be in a union. I’ve been a member of unions many times in my life. It’s always better to have a union job than not to have one. Working people who hate unions ought to have their heads examined. I even think management should be unionized.

      In Sweden, 93% of the workforce is unionized, including most management. I don’t get it. I’m a worker. I don’t want to join a union why now? I hate unions why now? It’s utter madness.

      Sometimes when I hear about how much American workers hate unions, I often think they deserve what they get. If you’re so retarded that you believe Enemy (the boss’s) propaganda, I mean, screw you. No sympathy.

  6. You must understand that the (tactical) confusion often lies in the impossibility of “Socialist Multiculturalism in One Country” that isn’t really a country” anymore, much less a Country.

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