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Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Why Don't Unions Sell as Democratic?

North Miami Beach, FL 02-10-2005
A.H. Schectman

No one questions if a business is run democratically or not. Most businesses make no bones that they cannot be run democratically. The most famous example of the failure of democracy to insinuate its way into the new (way back in the early years of the 20th Century) Soviet Communist state was the idea of the democratic orchestra.  Instead of having a dictator (the conductor) tell everyone what to do, each member of the orchestra would play his or her own interpretation of the melody line, harmony, volume and rhythm.  Of course there was chaos and the idea was dropped as soon as it was announced.

Democracy has somehow missed out in the Wal-Mart mega business.  It is a local thing but has implications for the union movement world wide.  Only one of the very many Wal-Mart stores had a union.  It is barely a few months old and the store in question, in Jonquiere, Quebec, will close down because of “unreasonable demands from union negotiators that would make it impossible for the store to sustain its business.”  This is a quote of the article in today’s Miami Herald on p. 2C. We heard about it yesterday in the NY Times but have only gotten around to paying it the kind of attention the story deserves.

Carol and I like to shop in Wal-Mart.  There is this old guy who greets everyone with a smile and a welcome phrase. The store has omnipresent yellow smiles because of price slashes.  This one happens to be in Hallandale. Our tastes are simple. Most people buy there because of price.  A new SUPER WAL-MART is presently under construction much closer on 163rd Street in North Miami Beach.  This one will be finished in record time and the small shops that sell the same products in the neighborhood for a mile around will go out of business. But, unions will be discouraged and the workers will be intimidated. The lady sales “associates” will be discriminated against, which is a real charge against the management.

There are not too many people who remember when the UNION LABEL was a respected logo sewed on garments and on tools and such. In fact, there are too many people who think that unions are bad for America.  We don’t need them for DEMOCRACY is what runs America.  Hey, didn’t I say that most businesses are not run democratically?  They are not and Wal-Mart, at least in Canada, is killing off a whole store on the basis that the workers voted FOR a UNION and suddenly the business is not making a big enough profit. Democracy does not fit this picture.

I like the idea of democracy.  I like the idea of unions.  I dislike the power of a company to shut its multi-million dollar business down just because the workers got a good deal for a change.  I don’t HAVE to buy from them but I would rather they thought as much about the workers as they do about the profits.



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