We all know how I feel about organized labor. It is crucially, crucially important to have strong, functioning labor unions.
Look at the teacher strike in West Virginia. Isn’t it a wonderful, inspiring thing? The teachers refused to be further mistreated and abused. They organized, stuck together, and achieved a victory.
If you have ever done any organizing, you know that it’s not about making a logical argument, showing the numbers, and proving points. What’s a lot more important are human relationships, emotions, trust, feeling comfortable with people in your unit.
It’s a lot harder to organize in an environment of mistrust, suspicion, and mutual dislike between workers. Any collective action requires an enormous amount of trust between participants because getting atomized, alienated consumers to do any collective action at all is ridiculously hard.
The vision of self as an island that is better off outside of any collective process is formed slowly and by means we don’t even notice. Those people who tell me, “I don’t need a union. I can negotiate on my own behalf” or “and how do I know you won’t tell the dean what we’ve been talking about here?” are guided towards this vision of self and others. There’s a million strategies to make workers fear and avoid each other.
All of these microaggressions seminars, ethics trainings, gender parity tutorials – their whole point is to make workers detest each other. We tell ourselves they have no effect on us but that’s delusional and well in line with thinking that an exceptional individual can bootstrap themselves out of ideological and intellectual processes that everybody is subject to.
It does have an effect. All of these exhortations to suspect and fear our fellow worker have an effect. Nobody is an exceptional cookie that can rise above this. This is poisoning the workplace for all of us. This is what we need to resist.
Unless we have a clear vision of all the anti-labor strategies employed against us, we won’t win.