07 December 2008

Return of the Sit-Down Strike: Too Late?

Workers in a Chicago-area window-&-door plant have occupied the facility in hopes of forcing the company to pay what it owes them, despite it being denied credit by Bank of America. The President-elect has said that the workers should get what's coming to them. I can see why some people would disagree. If the company has failed, they might say, the workers shouldn't expect anything -- that's what failure is all about. But if the company has obligations to its employees, and the people who own or run the company have assets, the workers should have some means of getting something out of them. A sit-down might not be the most immediately effective way about this, but it has definitely called public attention to the situation. It may be naive of me to think that if more workers had been willing to employ such tactics years ago, some things in our economic history might have turned out differently. But the workers would have shown the right spirit sooner than they have. Some people out there are probably hoping that the recession will beat the last sensation of "entitlement" out of American workers, but I'd like to think that the crisis will actually revive a more fundamental sense of entitlement, the belief that civilization itself requires a minimum standard of living that may be more than the market might concede. People might actually learn that there's a difference between the market and civilization -- and that's when conservatives ought to worry.

3 comments:

The Crime Think Collective said...

Maybe the workers should start putting everything in the building, and the building, up on eBay for sale and take their pay out of whatever they can get.

What I wouldn't mind seeing is for the workers to turn into a mob and just beat the living hell out of their employers for mismanagement in the first place. The only way the working class is going to receive what they've rightfully earned is to take it by force. The government has shown all along that it will almost always take the side of management over workers. The unions have sold us out for political power. There is no place left to turn for justice other than to ourselves.

Samuel Wilson said...

At the very least, the threat of force is important. Some historians will tell you that it was the perceived threat of revolutionary violence that led capitalist countries to grant rights to unions and start social welfare programs during the 20th century, while the gradual stripping away of workers' rights has been accompanied by a strange sense of docility or helplessness in the face of globalization. That should change.

The Crime Think Collective said...

Maybe we should take our example from the Greeks...