One way to know who still has some economic power in the work place is to hear that person wonder why the VW workers in Tennessee, in a three day voting period ending Friday (2/14) voted against their economic interests in joining the UAW. Very simply because from their perspective it was not in their economic best interests.
How can that be you ask?
First of all, for anyone who has ever been part of a recent(within the last thirty years) attempt to organize their workplace (I have been in two), had the UAW won, we would have been amazed. So all the pretense about how this is a crushing blow to organized labor is pure management wishful thinking and media propaganda. You have to make two completely false assumptions to wonder how the UAW lost.
The first is a biggie. To wonder how the UAW lost you must believe that union elections are free and open elections. The idea of free and fair elections in a union vote is laughable when you have created a right to organize that leaves management with the much cheaper consequence, in a union vote, being to break the law and actively infringe on people's rights to join a union.
We like to think of our politics being about values and beliefs, the second false assumption, but at the end of the day it really is all about the money. The leverage a worker once had was the with holding of labor (striking) and costing the company money until management was more willing to engage in compromising to hammer out a contract. Management always has had the power to take away jobs thus the workers ability to sustain themselves economically.
One major but never discussed aspect of the global free trade fraud is how management has manipulated the power to just move to cheaper labor and to get a tax break for doing so thus depriving the work force of the only power they have, which has been to force management to negotiate by with holding their labor.
In Tennessee, Right Wing Republican intervention, that defeated the UAW, was what it has always been, the now very real threat of if you vote yes for the union you may not have jobs anymore. As we have seen with over 60,000 factories closing down and moving to low wage work forces in other parts of the world, the threat to take jobs away is no idle threat and no matter what laws they break Corporate America has now been declared to big to fail. The back side of that is middle class America has been declared way to small to succeed.
This is just one aspect of why I consistently refer to the work place as a Banana Republic Dictatorship. Today the work force has no power to do anything but when told to jump to ask obligingly how high do you want me to jump. Any pretense of equal power in the work place, or democracy or your supposed rights in the work place are a pure sham.
Today people are being fired for having a set of beliefs the boss disapproves of, as in voting for Democrats when your boss in a die hard Right Winger. Another right you don't really have is the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, as some employers now even consider Facebook postings in your off duty hours part of their right to demand adherence to company policies and even political beliefs.
In the last election (2012) we saw the infamous Koch brothers make one of the most insidious infringements on their workers rights when they sent out letters to their employee's essentially telling them how to vote and hinting that if Obama won workers might lose their jobs. A coal company told their workers that they were expected to donate to Mitt Romney's campaign. These sorts of acts will make our whole electoral process a Banana Republic Dictatorship if these practices are allowed to continue and grow.
So no it is not surprising that the UAW lost and that loss does nothing but highlight how totally unequal the power in the work place has become. Remove the threats of economic retribution if the work force exercises their right to organize and you will see workers trampling each other to join unions. Until that moment, the American work place is nothing but the latest incarnation of slavery and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are meaningless pieces of paper.