By Cedar Bushue
Union-busting tactics have been around in the United States since we’ve had corporations. Early union-busting tactics involved killing workers and having the military come in (for example, Battle of Blair Mountain) as well as many others, such as companies hiring Pinkertons. Our government has always favored the corporations, particularly in these early struggles, even sending in troops to kill workers. In the present day, look no further than the recent rail workers who were going on strike for sick time off, better pay and benefits. Congress and the U.S. president forced a deal that clearly favored the company, as always. The rail workers union is not getting its sick time for workers, which will only help contribute to the next pandemic.
Unions have been making a comeback recently, after becoming an endangered species for many decades with the rise of “McCarthyism” in the 1950s, geared at those deemed “communists.” Workers in the U.S. owe much to unions. For example, the time that the U.S. economy was at its best was when union involvement was at its highest. During FDR’s presidency, the wealthy were also taxed at a much higher rate, contributing to a better economy. (During Eisenhower’s time they were also taxed at 90% over a certain amount of income). Many union members have died to earn workers’ rights. Aside from merely killing workers, there are many busting practices that companies and our government utilizes.
Some examples of union-busting tactics are: decertifying trade unions, breaking strikes, planting spies, putting out propaganda, taking legal action, and damaging property and blaming it on the union. Outright killing of workers seems to be a thing of the past, though corporations such as Amazon seem to have no trouble putting workers in harm’s way. During natural disasters, Amazon has a pattern of making employees stay at work, even when it proves deadly. Whistleblowers at these companies are often fired, and the government seems reluctant to help. This view comes from the “profit-over-people” model that our country has.
One thing workers can do to fight union-busting is to educate ourselves and each other about worker’s rights and the value of unions.
Unions scare corporations, which spend millions trying to break unions every year, when it would just be cheaper to pay workers well and give good benefits. Sure, companies would “lose” some money paying workers more, but if workers were “family” of the corporation, as higher-ups claim, that should be no problem.
Some things the public can do to support local unions include: come out in support of workers during a strike, respect picket lines by never crossing them, and boycott products from the company if asked. The public can also draw attention to what the company is doing. They can also help to feed workers on strikes and help with necessary supplies. Independent journalists can interview them and the group of workers to draw attention to their battle. Unions can also help the communities as well. Union workers can engage with the community and involve themselves more in volunteerism and other activities that benefit the community. Unions and communities feed each other; stronger unions means economically stronger communities. Bonds will be forged and lasting connections will be made, something that large corporations fear. This is because if neighborhoods and workers learn to live with one another and trust each other, that they present a structural defense. Each is much stronger than the other would be alone.
In conclusion, unions play an important role in worker power. I experienced many anti-unionizing videos when I worked at Home Depot a few years ago. Growing up, my dad’s side of the family was wealthier. They were early investors in Amazon, and they bought a few homes, before homes were highly valued like they are now. This made me a bit entitled growing up at times. That really started to change when I went and worked in AmeriCorps NCCC helping lower-income communities and actually helping with infrastructure. After that, I worked at Home Depot. The company showed us all these anti-union propaganda videos. They said we should tell union reps “no” if they asked if we wanted to join a union, and that we were “valued employees.” I felt very valued when I was never rewarded for my hard work, only with more hard work. “Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime. That’s why I poop on company time!” If we drove sales up and earned the company record profits, we were never given a bigger piece of the pie. Corporations want us defenseless and fighting among ourselves for the scraps. Instead, we deserve a full meal for ourselves and families.