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.