Unions: Some Fashionable Fallacies About Trade Unions

Unions: Some Fashionable Fallacies About Trade Unions

Latest, easiest and cheapest, since it is the least hazardous, intellectual fashion is to dissent against unions.

From Victor Riesel to the upper reaches of the Ford Foundation, an orchestrated carping plucks on the anti-intellectualism of the unions, their bureaucratic rigidity, their lack of militance, and the inferior quality of union leaders, who are compared inferentially with the writing fellows. All this is set against an invocation of a time past, the thirties, when unions were, presumably, none of these things.

Most of the windfill is not so, the historic assumptions are untrue, and the conclusions, when they are made, are mainly misapprehensions. Consider the prevailing fallacies and misconceptions current about unions.

First, the so-called resistance of unions to the thoughts of the thinking men. Actually every verbal expression that comes out of American unions is an illustration of the statement by Lawrence Durrell that history is a fleshing up of a skeleton provided by writers. Union programs, vocabularies, arguments, even the picket sign slogans are tissued layers of fashionable radical cliches deposited in the union mentality by intellectuals over the last six generations.

At the end of the 1920s when Selig Perlman wrote a final proof that industrial workers could not be organized and that it was the genius of the American labor movement to be nonpolitical, his thesis strengthened the convictions of the leaders of the American Federation of Labor long past the time when their own interests should have led them to abandon a judgment which was not only not so, but was, in addition, a senseless self injury.