happy autoworkers- Not so at Saturn

Michael Eisenscher meisenscher at igc.apc.org
Sun Jul 12 15:47:09 PDT 1998

At 06:28 PM 7/10/98 -0400, Richard Gibson wrote:
>They are collecting dues, protecting capitalism, living fairly well,
>exercising some authority and feeling powerful, investing, building a body
>of literature to immortalize themselves and controlling labor schools to
>protect themselves---same old stuff...best r
>ps...the union movement wins only a tiny percentage of grievances. In this
>arena, unorganized folks are sometimes better off--having direct access to


Have you ever pursued an employment issue in the courts? If you had, I don't think you would so glibly assert that unorganized workers are better off. To begin with, they have recourse to the courts only on issues of law. Much of the injustice that is the daily diet of workers is not illegal -- there is no law against it. That which is is hard to prove under the best of circumstances, and few workers have the resources and time to pursue the cases that could be proven. Even if you can find an attorney who will take the case on a contingent fee basis, the process will take years and in the end, the attorney will get 1/3 to 1/2 of the final award. In the meantime, if fired, you get to suffer all the consequences, plus live and relive the injustice in every step of the legal process, while the employer writes off his legal expenses as a necessary cost of doing business and has ample resources to outlast you and force a meager settlement that is valued at a fraction of your losses.

Justice and dignity are not constructed individually. They are socially constructed and if they are to be meaningful, they must be socially won and defended. Arguing that individual action through the courts is superior to collective action at the site of the injustice turns the notion of justice on its head and makes it prisoner at the same time to a system of legal jurisprudence that is inherently (and often explicitly) biased to favor capital.

Perhaps your level of education, professional expertise, individual personality, and intelligence give you some immunity from the worst viscitudes of the typical workplace. Maybe you just believe all that rugged indivdualism crap. But for most workers who do not enjoy those privileges or illusions, the reality of the workplace makes your prescription pretty empty if not insulting.

In solidarity, Michael E.

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